Reading – royal road to the development of the mind

Reading – royal road to the development of the mind

by Brigitte von Bergen and Dr Peter Küpfer

During the Leipzig Book Fair, we had the opportunity to present “Mein liebstes Lesebuch” (My favourite reading book) from the publishing house “Zeit-Fragen”. The reading book was developed for children in search for appealing texts from reality of life. The texts for about eight-year-old children enhance the reading motivation by reading aloud or as first stories to read alone. Some teachers have searched for mind-forming texts, and have also written such.

Why a reading book?

Reading is an elementary culture technique. Children learn it at school. This reading book is written for second-graders, that is for eight-year-old children. The stories contribute to the development of the child’s mind. Reading the stories contributes to the development of imagination and empathy as no other medium. Above all, reading humanly appealing texts is elementary, precisely in today’s world, where the mainstream media often present to the children human beings as terrible beasts.
Exciting for a child are not ghosts or criminals. Exciting is the introduction into real life. Exciting is above all to experience the world from the eyes of another person. An example: The little story “Grandmother is doing well” makes the child empathise with its grandmother. Is she not bored if she can no longer run around like children do? Why is she doing well, even though she is so old? This is a question the grandson thinks about. She loves to knit sweaters, reads the newspaper, and tells such lively stories. This creates a relationship, an elixir of life not only for children.

The friend: a little story

Reto can do something better and something else worse than his friend. Both like each other just as they are. When reading children learn through an appreciative tone that people are different and that their diversity is connecting: “Reto is my best friend”.
Why reading and not just hearing or seeing? Reading realistic and humanly appealing texts is fundamental especially today. Children and adolescents who read such texts, in which they can recognise themselves, experience a piece of the world with the eyes of another person. They envision their own images of what they have read, they empathise with the story they read. Every child is born with the basic capacity for imagination and identification. It comes into being in relation to the mother and is further developed by reliable persons. Once the child can read, an invaluable training begins enabling the children to immerse in other people and other perceptions of the world.
An optimistic, sympathetically written story, which invites to positive identification, is beneficial to the development of the mind and the intellect, and especially important for growing people.
In complete contrast to film, videos, also to comics. These images trickle onto the child devaluing it into a passive consumer. Prefabricated, often frightening or negative images reach the child’s head. What are they doing there? Often, unfortunately, nothing good. And what is most important is the fact that the continuous consumption of finished images makes the training impossible to create from texts corresponding ideas or images. This is a big loss.
For when reading a narrative and depicting text the reader has to comprehend, imagine, picture and follow every occurring event, every happening, every emotional movement. The resulting maturing of empathy is not just an intellectual, it is also an emotional achievement. Above all, it is an active process for the formation of the brain, the feeling and the imagination.
When this elementary training of the development of the mind is nurtured and trained, real understanding, real tolerance towards other people find a fertile ground. School, parents, also grandparents and our cultural public are demanded.
Reading has a much more comprehensive value than the current much-cited media competency. It cannot just be about marking with a cross incorrect or correct information from a text. Reading means addressing the whole person, seeing his point of view within the family or the community. It is about education of young people. Here the key question is from which conception of man these images arise our children are confronted with. Are they optimistic, constructive, genuinely tolerant? In that case they support the formation of human coexistence and the courage to face life. Or are they destructive, terrifying, nagging, superficial, and eccentric? In that case they contribute to the contrary. It is part of the cultural nurture of the next generation, to select texts very carefully especially for children and young people. Nowadays, unfortunately, destructive texts predominate. All of us must therefore make every effort to provide humanely appealing and constructive texts to our youth. This begins already in the first reading age.    •

Grandma is doing well

according to Elisabeth Lenhardt

Grandma is sitting in the sun on the terrace in front of the house. The people in the neighbourhood, who are passing by, call out hello and ask: „How are you doing, Grandma?“ And Grandma always answers: „Thanks. I’m doing well.“
Peter is puzzled when he hears that. Grandma can hardly walk any more. She has a walker. Her legs don’t really want to carry her and her back is not straight any more. „Those are the years“, says Grandma and smiles. „My back has been carrying more than eighty years. What do you think, Peter, that is some weight?“
Peter asks: „Grandma, is it not too boring for you?“ But Grandma shakes her head: “I can still knit and read the paper.“
That’s true. Grandma always knits. All the sweaters Peter wears are knitted by her.
But Peter thinks: I wouldn’t always want to sit around. He skips through the garden. He needs to feel how alive his legs are and be able to hop and run.
Grandma watches him. She is able to read his mind and says: „When I was just as little as you, I also skipped around to everything. When I was as old as your mother, I worked in the house and in the field. Now I can’t work as I did before. For this reason, I think about everything which I encountered and which I held. I have the time to remember stories.”
Peter nods, he can understand that. Nobody knows such beautiful stories like Grandma. Stories about flowers and stones and people and animals. He listens to her gladly.

from “Mein liebstes Lesebuch” (My favourite reading book)

My friend

My friend is called Reto.
He is smaller than me,
but he can run very fast.
Reto has funny dark eyes.
His hair is brown and curly.
At school he is sitting next to me.
He is very nice.
Reto can sing well.
He is the best singer in our class.
But something he can do even better: whistle!
Reto does not really like to calculate.
I often help him with homework.
We also practice the dictation together.
Reto’s father has a garden center.
Reto is often with the father and assists.
Sometimes he is also in the store
and brings something for the customers.
Reto is my best friend.

From: „My favourite reading book“, p. 16

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