Whoa, sounds dramatic, right? But it's true. I dislike (sometimes bordering on despise) it when people treat children as space aliens. When they refuse to let children into their normal lives. When they segregate them by age groups. When they send babies to daycare, toddlers to pre-school, and older children to insecticide factories (really, that's what public schools look like) to be educationated (yes, I invent words) by state-sanctioned professionals in rigid and regimented age groups regardless of maturity or ability, reading inane stories carefully designed by pedagogues to check all the marks on the education department's form and consequently have no life or imagination in them. Children are not idiots. They are not space aliens. They are human beings. And while I am hugely in favour of making sure they do get a space in which to be children (ie one where there is loads of time for unsupervised play, where swear words are rare, where complicated adult themes are only introduced carefully when the kids themselves express curiosity, and above all a space where magic is allowed to live as long as possible - yay, Tooth Fairy!), I am also hugely in favour of children being included in their parents' and extended families' everyday lives. We do, for instance, take ours with us when we travel for business. It forces them to learn how to cope with the world - including important social skills like knowing how to behave like proper human beings in an adult setting, or how to converse intelligently with the nice lady in the airplane seat next to you.
I mean, if you don't bring your children regularly into the real world with you, if you always stick them in groups of 30 kids their own age at school ten months a year then at camp all summer, how do you expect them suddenly to turn into decent human beings when they are let loose as teenagers? When I said we should let magic live as long as possible, I didn't mean for us parents.
But back to imagination and literature. Reading this post on a previously unknown Dr. Seuss story brought me back to another notion and post about why there is no such thing as writing for children. Not when it comes to fiction, anyway.* True, there are certain stories that should be kept away from little ones until they are ready (I certainly am not into letting kids read 50 shades of grey, obviously), but other than keeping the unsuitable stuff away, we should let kids read imaginative stories that were not specifically designed for children if they are intrigued by them. It's the best way to help them develop their imagination and explore more mature themes at their own pace.
*I'm cool with non-fiction books that are specifically written for a younger audience, as long as they're not condescending or treating children like their youth and relatively uneducationated mind is a disease. Please do children the honour of treating them with the dignity they deserve. Explain things clearly to them, omit certain details where necessary, and shorten long-ass historical events where needed so as to keep them engaged, sure. But don't belittle their intelligence. They resent that. (Ask me how I know.)