But again like the diagram or map, the thing it shows is a fact, a fact which is more readily grasped by this artificial device than by bald statement. Maps do not take the place of photographs, nevertheless they have their own peculiar place in making intelligible the make-up of the physical world. In the same way, personification does not take the place of science.
Nevertheless it has its own peculiar place in making clear to the child some simplifying principle,—physical or social,—which unifies his multitudinous experiences. No more. It is a useful intellectual tool and a charming device for play. It is a dangerous tool in lesser hands. Gaps there are, and many and large ones. They are beginning to take on adult modes of thought and to appreciate and understand the peculiar language which adults use no matter how young a child they address! And at best the content is but half. If content is but half, form is the other half of stories and not the easier half, either.
Every story, to be worthy of the name, must have a pattern, a [Pg 47] pattern which is both pleasing and comprehensible. This design, this composition, this pattern, whether it be of a story as a whole or of a sentence or a phrase, is as essential to a piece of writing as is the design or composition to a picture. It satisfies the emotional need of the child which is as essential in real education as is the intellectual.
Without this design, language remains on the utilitarian level,—where, to be sure, we usually find it in modern days. Now what kind of pattern is adapted to a small child,—say a three-year-old? What kind does he like? More, what kind can he perceive? Herein the expression as fatally as in the content has the adult shaped the mould to his own liking. Or rather, the case is even worse.
The adult more often than not has presented his stories and verse to children in forms which the children could not like because they literally could not hear them! The pattern, as such, did not exist for them. But what have we to guide us in creating suitable patterns for these little children who can help us neither by analysis nor by articulate remonstrance? We have two sources of help and both of them come straight from the children. Even a superficial study of these two sources,—and where shall we find a thorough study?
They sound obvious and perhaps they are. But how often is the obvious ignored in the treatment of children! The first is that the individual units whether ideas, sentences or phrases must be simple. The second is that these simple units must be put close together. As the quickest and most eloquent exemplification of both these principles I give four stories. The first was told by a little girl of twenty-two months, a singularly articulate little person,—as she looked at the blank wall where had hung a picture of a baby she supposed her little brother , a cow and a donkey.
The second was a story told by a little girl of two and a half after a summer on the seashore. The third was achieved by a boy of three,—a child, in general, unsensitive to music. The fourth was told in school by a four-year-old girl.
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Donk gone away! Little Aa gone away! I fell in water. Man fell in water. John fell in water. Aunt Carrie fell in water.
I pull boat out. Man pull boat out. John pull boat out. Aunt Carrie pull boat out. I go in that boat. Man go in that boat. John go in that boat. Aunt Carrie go in that boat. And father went down, down, down into the hole And the bull-frog, he went up, up, up into the sky! And then the bull-frog, he went down, down, down into the hole And then father, he went up, up, up, way into the sky!
And then the bull-frog he went down, down, down into the hole And up, up into the sky! And then he went down into the hole And up into the sky! Certainly all have form,—spontaneous native art form. Indeed they strongly suggest that to the [Pg 51] child, the pleasure lay in the form rather than in the content. The patterns of the first two are somewhat alike,—variations of a simple statement.
In content the younger child keeps her attention on one point, so to speak, while the older child allows a slight movement like an embryonic narrative. The phrases shorten, the tempo quickens, until the whole swings off into wordless melody.
I give two more examples of stories. In the first, does not this five-year-old girl give us her vivid impressions in marvelously simple sense and motor terms? And does not the six-year-old boy in the second show that imagination can spring from real experiences? I am going to tell you a story about when I went to Falmouth with my mother. We had to go all night on the train and this is the way it sounded, moving her hand on the table and intoning in different keys thum, thum, thum, thum, thum, thum, thum, thum, NEW ARK! And then we got off and we took a trolley car and the trolley car went clipperty, clipperty, clipperty, zip, zip.
And [Pg 52] another trolley car came in the other direction again with hands and one came along saying clipperty, clipperty, clipperty, zip, zip and the other came along saying clipperty, clipperty, clipperty, zip, zip, zip, BANG! And they hit in the middle and they got stuck and they tried to pull them apart and they stuck and they stuck and they stuck and finally they got them apart and then we went again. And when we got off we had to take a subway and the subway went rockety-rockety-rockety-rock.
You know a subway makes a terrible noise! It made a terrible noise it sounded like rockety-rockety-rockety-rockety-rock. You know the streets of Falmouth are just so terribly quiet and then we had to walk millions and millions of miles almost to get to our little cottage. And when we got there I put on my bathing suit and I went in bathing and I shivered just like this because it was a rainy day, the day I went to Falmouth with my mother.
O brook, O brook, that sings so loud, O brook, O brook, that goes all day, O brook, O brook, that goes all night And forever. Splashes and waves, girls and boys are playing with You and in you. Some with shoes off and some with shoes on, And some are crying because they fell in you. O brook, O brook, have you an end ever? Or do you go forever? He attends to but one thing at a time. And his steps from one point to the next are short and clear.
I do not believe there is anything in the content of Mother Goose to win the child. I believe it is the form that makes the appeal.
Again I give examples as the quickest of arguments. And I give them in verse where the form is more obvious and can be shown in briefer space than in stories. Jack and Jill Went up the hill To fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down And broke his crown And Jill came tumbling after.
There was a little turtle. He lived in a box. He swam in a puddle.
He climbed on the rocks. He snapped at a musquito. He snapped at a flea.
He snapped at a minnow. And he snapped at me. He caught the musquito.
He caught the flea. He caught the minnow. But when I have read it to three-year-olds, I have felt that they were lost. The span to carry is two phrases in Mother Goose as against four in Stevenson. The Vachel Lindsay I have found is as easily remembered and as much enjoyed as Mother Goose, though it is a pity it is about an unfamiliar animal.