Have you noticed how there don’t seem to be any good children’s books anymore?
Most of the time what you get is printed cartoons – extravagant colorful drawings accompanied by a maimed version of the text, an abridged, dry version, more like an abstract really than the actual story, re-written in the most inane and unsavory language ever. My son will stare at these pictures for half an hour while I’m reading to him, and not remember a single detail of the deeper story they’re based on.
I used to think it’s language – the verbal and written expression of it – that makes us humans what we are. Nowadays, it’s all about visual impressions, and it’s all about speed. Our children have pictures in their heads they never learn to articulate. Pictures they can’t structure, order, categorize and express, because they lack the instrument for it, the concepts. The Words.
And later they will feel frustrated and misunderstood, because the complexity of their vocabulary does not match the complexity of their feelings, of what they’re going through, of life itself.
Remember the books of our generation? (Or mine, at least). Several dozen pages covered in writing: small, magic black symbols strung on an invisible wire, chasing each other from the top of the page to its bottom. The magic of letters. Then there’d be the rough sketch of a scene every few pages and maybe a portrait of the main character on the cover. I used to lie in bed, next to my grandma, close my eyes and listen. And listen. Listen to every word until I knew them all by heart. And the events and characters and landscapes in the book would come alive and unfold in my brain, in my own view of things, inflaming my imagination. My heart still resonates with those images to this day. They were mine. Not some uniform, computer-generated vision of the world, but mine. Remember those days? Remember the days when we actually could wait? When we had the patience to stop in the middle of a story and pick up its yarn the following evening? Now they can’t wait to turn the page. I’m not done reading the half of it, and I notice he’s just dying to look at the next page. It’s too easy. Too tempting. Instant gratification, immediate results – is that all our society is about?
Our kids are doomed to be impatient. Today’s stories lack depth and they lack length. Not to mention real meaning. Stories for 5-year-olds have become as short and superficial as those for 2-year-olds. A succession of pictures. A printed TV show.