Years ago, I read an academic study about kids and how they told stories about their lives. Frequently, their stories would borrow from movies or shows they had seen and sometimes, their stories appeared to be direct copies of those programs. The temptation at this point may be to say, “Media is replacing kids’ imaginations!” but the researcher went a bit deeper. In looking very closely at the language the kids used, she could see moments where they had inserted themselves into these stories or had brought the characters into their own worlds. The kids’ stories were therefore a blend of their own lives with stories and characters that mattered to them.
I imagine that the elders of ancient civilizations saw young children mixing up important cultural tales and reacted differently. Some were likely thrilled that their kids were embracing the mythological heroes and making them familiar, perhaps even innovating on the old tales; others probably expressed concern that the sacred nature of the stories was being altered by youth and that important messages would be lost. We’re following a similar path as the ancients – our stories may be coming to kids via different media, but kids-being-kids will always shape something new out of them. As adults, we should foster and applaud their creative works. Just as the researcher did, we should pay attention to their voices – what are they telling us about their worlds and about themselves? How can we honor their contributions to our society?
From now until the end of March, youth in kindergarten through fifth grade who are in the Austin PBS viewing area are encouraged to submit their illustrated stories to the Austin PBS Writers Contest. All entries get published as e-books on our platform. It’s a great way for us to shine our spotlight on young creators and to celebrate the stories they tell us. Go to www.austinpbs.org/writers for details and to submit.
Ben Kramer, PhD, is the director of education for Austin PBS.