Reading strengthens imagination

In my young imagination I used to hunt tigers in the sandhills of eastern New Mexico.

I'm pretty sure I never got out of my mother's sight but I still came back from my adventures telling all that had happened as my dog Knucklehead and I pursued the beast.

I can only think of one reason for my young fascination with tigers, a storybook my mother read to me where a young boy surrenders his umbrella, shoes and new clothes to tigers to keep them from eating him. The tigers eventually become so obsessed with how they look that they run round and round a tree until they turn into butter. The little boy gets his stuff back and they put the tiger butter on pancakes.

A child has to use his imagination to make a story like that real but the development of a strong imagination is more important than anything else we can implant in our youngsters.

I got to thinking about all this in the last week after we honored Bill and Peggy Prater, longtime Dora grade school teachers, as Pioneers of the Year at Portales' Heritage Days. What popped up not once but twice in learning about the couple was that Bill, a fifth-grade teacher, always read books aloud in his classes. Apparently he read, or had his students read, the "Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the "Hank the Cowdog" series by John R. Erickson.

That rang a bell with my experience as a fifth grader. My teacher, Brian Arnold, read to us every day right after noon recess. He read some of the Ralph Moody books including "Little Britches" and my mind went to the Colorado Front Range at the turn of the century every afternoon.

Those afternoon readings flipped a switch in my mind and set me to reading and exploring my imagination. I read and re-read all of the Moody books and started in on the "Hardy Boys" series.

Not only did reading and being read to expand my mind it also enabled me to write my thoughts down on paper effectively. I was terrible at grammar and yet somehow I eventually made my living for a time as an editor. I learned grammar by reading it, not by studying the rules and diagramming sentences.

I worry that fifth grade teachers and young mothers aren't reading the right books to kids these days. Even worse, I worry that they're not reading a story of any kind to them. How are they going to learn to use that powerful tool called imagination if they can't put their heads

down on their desks and travel and experience in their minds while they're young.

Albert Einstein was onto something when he said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

Our world could use a lot more imagination and more teachers like the Praters and Arnolds.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

karlterry@yucca.net

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