Children and Their Books

James Hosmer Penniman
and Their Books, by James
Hosmer Penniman

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Title: Children and Their Books
Author: James Hosmer Penniman
Release Date: September 15, 2007 [EBook #22604]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

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[Illustration: School Bulletin Publications emblem]

Copyright, 1921, by C. W. BARDEEN

The most vital educational problem will always be how to make the
best use of the child's earlier years, not only for the reason that in them
many receive their entire school training, but also because, while the
power of the child to learn increases with age, his susceptibility to
formative influences diminishes, and so rapid is the working of this law
that President Eliot thinks that
"the temperament, physical constitution, mental aptitudes, and moral
quality of a boy are all well determined by the time he is 18 years old."
Great waste of the child's time and mental energy in the precious early
years is caused by disregard of the way in which his mind unfolds. Not
only are children set at work for which they are not yet fitted, but
frequently they are kept at occupations which are far below what they
might profitably engage in. The child should be guided, not driven; to
force his mind is an educational crime. Long continued attention and
concentration are injurious, but by using tact a great deal may be
accomplished without strain.
At first the aim should be not so much to fill the mind with knowledge
as to develop the powers as they are ready for it, and to cultivate the
ability to use them. The plasticity of the child's mind is such that a new
impression may be erased quickly by a newer one; his character
receives a decided bent only through repeated impressions of the same
kind. The imaginative faculty is one of the earliest to appear, and a
weakness of our educational systems is the failure to realize its
importance and to pay sufficient attention to its development. It is well

known that imagination is the creative power of the mind which gives
life to all work, so that without it Newton would never have found the
law of gravitation, nor Columbus have discovered America. The world
of make-believe is filled with delight for the small child. He loves
stories of imaginary adventure that he can act out in his play,
"Now with my little gun I crawl All in the dark along the wall, And
follow round the forest track Away behind the sofa back. I see the
others far away, As if in fire-lit camp they lay; And I, like to an Indian
scout, Around their party prowled about."
Cultivate his imagination by helping the child to image what he has
read. Let us play that we are sailing with Columbus in a little ship over
the great green ocean. When we look far off from the top of a wave we
see nothing but sky and white-capped water; all around us are angry
faces and angry waves.
It is easy to work on the emotions of a little child and thoughtless
persons may find it amusing but it is a serious matter, for it has an
injurious effect upon his nerves. Ghost stories and books which inspire
fear of the supernatural often do much harm to imaginative children.
The boundless curiosity of the child may be aroused and stimulated so
that he gets to know himself and the world about him in a way that
furnishes him with constant and delightful employment. The growth of
his mind is rapid and healthful, because he is reaching out to
comprehend and verify and apply to his own purposes the knowledge
that he derives from books and that which he obtains from observation.
It is not easy to realize the ignorance of children. Dr. G. Stanley Hall
found by experiments with a large number of six-year-olds in Boston,
that 55 percent did not know that wooden things are made from trees.
The world is strange to them; they must grope their way, they are
attracted by the bright, the flashy, the sensational, and their tastes will
develop in these directions unless they are taught better. Grown-ups
estimate in terms of previous experience; the child has had little
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