I recently read a book to a group of students titled: Lulu, the Big Little Chick by Paulette Bogan. This book was intentional in its storyline representing a safe place and a mother’s love but at the end of the story, I found myself redirecting children from this plot line. Here’s why: Lulu, the Big Little Chick was about a young chick who was ready to explore the world, wanting to go “far far away.” In other words, off the farm, away from what she has always known. She hit challenges along the way, had other animals tell her she was foolish continuing with her dream to explore. It was inspiring and motivated freedom, adventure, and fearlessness…but only for a minute. At the end of the story, the mother chicken rescued this little chick when she got scared and felt unsure of her decision to leave.
Now. I know the moral of the story was that mothers are always there to help and save the day when necessary. That a mother’s love is incomparable and irreplaceable- a fact that should not be under-appreciated or skimmed over. However, I wish the moral of the story had been that the little chick succeeded off of the farm. That the world had been challenging and scary but the little chick had the courage and persistence to succeed because of the tools she learned from her mother and from her home on the farm. I wish that despite the scary things that can happen and despite being alone in the world, this little chick knew she had a strong support system at home and was motivated to continue living and loving life with curiosity rather than reverting back to a safe zone.
I think it is vital that children, especially in early education, who are at such a moldable age and whose brains are more plastic than ever, are exposed to stories that promote self exploration, curiosity of the world, and discovery. We live in a time period in which boredom is quickly obliterated by handheld devices with bright screens and interactive noises. Haven’t ever seen the ocean? Google it. Don’t know how much sun eucalyptus is supposed to receive to grow successfully? Google it. We have lost the art of trial and error. Children are no longer experimenting with their skills, their knowledge, their “gut feelings.” Children are not being given the opportunities to learn for themselves when the world is literally at their fingertips.
Books are an educators’ and a parents’ first line of defense. They are one of the few things we can offer children that can create and maintain a child’s interest in the world. Safe places and support systems are an important to have no matter how old you are. But children need to be left to their own devices (and I don’t mean handheld- I mean their innate, intrinsic motivation) to see the world, experience heart break, failure, love, fear, success, personalities, good and evil. We must not be afraid to let our children fail. We must give our children “our blessing” to experience the world and find their spot in it. Away from these safe spaces, away from these support systems, away from the unknown- with the opportunity to turn home, rather than an inevitable rescue.