Friday, September 7, 2012

A Mirror to Nature

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.

1 comment:

Sue Heavenrich said...

The neat thing about finding books in the library is that they don't have the age range labeled on the cover. My kids often chose books by their cover - if they were too difficult for them to read, I read them aloud.