Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Old classics redesigned

Who doesn't love childhood favourites such as Mary Poppins, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and all those others? Aren't they beautifully represented in these minimalist, but incredibly effective posters by designer Christian Jackson? I keep encountering them during my travels around the internet and each time I seem to fall in love with them more! Time to get some maybe...?

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Information, knowledge and the role of reading

These days life seems to be spinning faster and faster, with the dizzying kind of momentum of a funfair ride; and I don't just mean in my personal life, but in a general sense too. Everyday, we are assailed by information and, to cope, our reading has adapted accordingly. We skim, we scan, picking at bits of information here and there. We skim lightly over the surface of words and facts and issues, all the time our eyes are speeding along looking for the next topic, the next link. We flit from text to text, gathering up information, but never completely diving in and immersing ourselves in just one text. We bookmark some for later, but "later" is never a place we actually reach.

Noticing this in myself and in others around me, has got me thinking about information as opposed to knowledge. Knowledge comes from a place of quietness, a pause in the rush of information. It demands a more total immersion in a text, many solitary moments free from distractions and, perhaps most costly, time. It means contemplation as opposed to gathering and for this reason is harder to quantify. Knowledge and information cannot, therefore, be the same and yet we often mistake the two.

I do firmly believe that knowledge is something that comes from slow reading. There is no shortcut, no special reading app, no electronic device that can speed up the process for us. Not truly. And so, in a fast world, slow reading remains our only real avenue to knowledge.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

How to make time

I feel a bit like I have been neglecting this online space, shushing it and grumpily telling it to get to the back of the line again. I'm full of "not now's" and "I'm too busy, maybe later's". As a working mom I'm very aware of those lines; despite my best intentions, they're uttered all too frequently. I wish I could make time. Make it in the sense of weave it with my fingers, create it and shape it into tangible strips that I could tape all over my life. Tape it to time spent with my family, more casual outings, more dates, more healthy eating, just a bit more exercise, more really listening when the kid wants to tell me some long-winded, complicated story. I'd stick some extra time onto extending and developing my interests at work, to writing, to meeting my own deadlines and goals. Just a bit of extra time to make it all less rushed and bumped up against each other.

Dreams and flights of fancies I guess. Until it happens, I'm left to try capture little moments, make little hollows into the busy surfaces of the every day and to apologise for not offering more.

Friday, 2 May 2014

The book that I fell in love with (and got me hooked)

In Jay Heale's delightful (and distinctly South African) book, Hooked on Books: Why and what to read to your child, she talks about the need for babies and children to handle a book in order for them to really fall in love with them:
"A child needs to be physically connected with the book as an object. You know how small children examine an object. They look at it, stroke it, sniff it, chew at it sometimes. A book is a 'thing' just as much as a spoon or a blanket or a favourite teddy bear."
That's just the first step to truly getting "hooked on books" . Children need to really internalise or own what a book offers. It has to reach deep into them and provide that "food for fantasy" as German children's author, Otfried Preussler famously stated. Jay Heale goes on to say that owning what a book offers goes, "beyond buying books for children, though that can be part of the process. I mean the process of letting what is inside the book transfer itself to you. That includes the sight of the pictures, the sound of the words, the chance to let your mind wander off, to imagine the new ideas, new people, new places, the laughter and the amazement."

If I think back to my childhood, one book stands out as being such a book, namely Die Abenteuer des starken Wanjas (The adventures of strong Vanya) by Otfried Preussler. I remember sitting enthralled on the carpet while our Grade 2 teacher read to us. Although mostly text and simple black and white line drawings, I remember this book as as infinitely colourful and was completely carried along on Wanja's adventures as overcame various challenges to become Tsar in the land beyond the White Mountains.

I was completely captured by this story and when I left Switzerland my Grade 2 teacher gave me a copy of this book to take with me. To be able to keep that story, its magic contained between the covers, was an incredibly empowering experience for me. I could carry that magic with me, hold it, touch it and through this process I fell in love with the book as object.

Although I may not have touched that book for years, I was always aware of it somehow; conscious of its presence there on the bookshelf. It filled a certain space in my mind. It was a kind of step.

Recently I pulled it out and reread it. Memories swirled up, rich and thick like sand in water. It was every bit as magical as the first time. This book really shaped me and I am forever grateful that it found its way into my hands.


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