Joan Aiken believed that developing the imaginations of our children was the key to the survival of the human race, and the surest way to create hope for the future.
“How can we cultivate this faculty in our children?” she wrote, and imagined that in every school there could be classes “which would teach children to use their own wits, to amuse themselves, to keep themselves hopeful, to solve apparently insoluble problems, to try and get inside other people’s personalities, to envisage other periods of time, other places, other states of being…”
…and of course her way of passing on these ideas would eventually be by writing and sharing her stories, but this was something she would have to learn in time.
Taught at home in an isolated village until the age of twelve, she found relating to the world of other people extremely difficult when she first arrived at school:
“Training the imagination takes time and energy. Most adults keep their imagination at low level voltage a lot of the time – we have to; otherwise life would be too grim. We are so bombarded with news from outside; unlike our ancestors who knew only what was happening in their own cities, we know, all the time, what is happening in the whole world. Nevertheless we need to help children retain their early curiosity, their urge to explore.”
The picture of the small girl above proudly displaying her own personal creation amongst so many others expressing themselves in the ‘placard heaven’ of recent demonstrations, seemed to be a perfect expression of the kind of encouragement we can and must show our children.
In her talk on imagination, and ways of teaching our children to be hopeful and positive in their contribution to the challenges of life, Joan Aiken concluded:
Joan Aiken was often asked to speak about education and writing for children,
and many of her ideas can be found in a short book called