Commendations by Margaret Meek and Henrietta Dombey

Margaret Meek’s Foreword concludes

Dr Lowe’s studies of siblings offer distinctive evidence of her children’s responses to books as “real” or “imaginary”. As the children engage in conversations about particular aspects of particular texts, we see the cognitive and imaginative capacities of young children as they explore the world of fiction…This study is a significant addition to the distinctive collection of its kind.

Henrietta Dombey says:

Leading cognitive psychologists such as Barbara Rogoff have recognised for some time the value of naturalistic studies of children interacting with their parents or other skilled mentors in familiar situations. It is now also widely recognised that the study of children who are expert in a particular area can indicate useful paths for others to follow. But accounts of young children’s experiences of literature tend to set limitations on their capacity to appreciate literary quality, understand figurative language and recognise the style of particular authors or illustrators.

2006-Baby_with_book.jpg - 12191 BytesThis book presents a triumphant counter-argument to these notions of limitation. In this supremely naturalistic study we see two children’s encounters with literature from their earliest months through to middle childhood. Through their mother’s meticulous documentation, analysed in terms of the children’s general cognitive development as well as their understanding of the texts, we see that close encounters with texts that arrest and reverberate not only initiate children into a deep understanding of what literature is and can do, but also enlarge their mental capabilities in a number of important ways, not least in developing a sophisticated theory of mind.

At a time when multi-modal representations of real and fantasy worlds penetrate far into children’s lives, this book presents a powerful argument for sharing conventional texts with children. All teachers of young children should read it to give them a sense of the long-term power of the reverberative text.