A Mirror to Nature, by Jane Yolen, with photographs by Jason Stemple, is a simple, sleek picture book that captures the glorious reflective properties of water. Yolen combines poetry with a small amount of fact, accompanied by Stemple's (her son) delightful photographs.
Call me crazy, and many may, but I since working my way through this literary world I have come upon an age issue. It may be an age old issue too, but it's the recommended age for a book that boggles my mind. In looking up Yolen's book on Amazon to get the basic facts about it, I read that it is for kids 10 and up. I clicked over to a few others as well and found the same thing. These picture books with the simplest poetry and the most basic scientific fact that one can possibly imagine, are for 9 and 10 year olds?
Fine, I mean a 10 year old might like them, I do. But ten year olds are learning way more complicated stuff in school. So why the high age range? Do they (whoever they are) seriously think a 5 or 6 year old could not comprehend this stuff? It's POETRY for heaven's sake (who understands poetry anyway?) and beautiful pictures, and two sentences that tell how many teeth an alligator has.
I guess I feel a bit offended. Maybe I just have a smart 6 year old, but he would love this book. And he would understand it. I hang out with little kids all the time, and while yes, their attention span is short, and many of them have little ability to focus, I think any parent or caregiver could sit and read this short poetry and minuscule science to a young kid easily and well.
What it leads me to ask is if we are shortchanging our kids? Or underestimating how much they can understand? I know my kids understand a heck of a lot more than I give them credit for. And they let me know it! I wonder if the libraries, the bookstores, the publishers have fallen into a trap where they believe that society needs things explained more simply than we really do.
My best parenting discovery thus far is that I have to have high expectations for my kids. I expect hard work, respect, kindness, and truth. Then they have to meet me there. Sometimes they fall down and can't make it, so I help them, but usually they try their best to rise to the level I am asking for. If all I expect is them to scrape by, then that is exactly what they will do. It's human nature.
The same goes for society. I we only expect a 10 year old to be able to read and comprehend the poetry and images and science of such a book as this, then why would those younger (or their parents) bother?
It's a sweet book, colorful and well designed, and the more time I spend with it the more I like it. It's just too bad that it's not recommended for younger kids, because I think everyone could enjoy it.