THE PLACE OF THE STORY IN THE LIFE OF THE CHILD
Stories are the natural soul-food of children,
their native air and vital breath; but our children are too
often either story-starved or charged with ill-chosen or
ill-adapted twaddle tales.
—G. STANLEY HALL, Sunday-school and Bible Teaching.
Story-telling will make the child father to a more
kind-hearted, a more enthusiastic, a more idealistic
man than the one taught to scorn story-telling. The
story-telling nations of the world are the cheerful,
social, enthusiastic, idealistic nations, and this is
because story-telling to the child brings out all the
better qualities—sympathy, warm-heartedness,
—SEUMAS MCMANUS, Lecture.
 Economic conditions, changing standards of living, and other
complexities of modern life have increased the
difficulty of mere existence and put well-marked
success, in any line, out of reach of the man who is
not highly specialized in his training. The preparation
which brought success a quarter of a century ago would
guarantee only mediocrity today.
CAPABILITY AND CULTURE
This higher standard of efficiency has inevitably had
its effect on education. Parents have demanded that the
schools shall attack and solve the problem of equipping
the student for efficient living. In response,
 schools have spread like plants in a force-bed.
Domestic science departments, agricultural
classes—in fact, many phases of physical work,
have come to be represented in the college and
These short cuts to making a living have been
emphasized because efficiency has been interpreted as
the ability to satisfy the demand for physical
luxuries. Silk stockings, tailor-made clothes and
diamond rings were once badges of social distinction,
but in a democracy every man must see to it that he and
his have an open road to the "good things of life."
Success or failure has been measured by the money
standard, which in turn has come to mean the luxury
standard, and as a consequence there is a tendency to
limit the essentials of education to the purely
But this misplacement of emphasis is only a temporary
phase in the transition to the great middle ground
which in the development of every question seems to be
the truly progressive roadway. If schools deserve
criticism for turning out half-baked philosophers who
are unable to meet every-day issues because they have
been trained away from actual life, they deserve equal
censure when they send out materialists who recognize
only physical needs. True, physical needs must be
satisfied, for the man who is hungry is not likely to
do much high thinking, but the development of ability
to satisfy those needs is only one phase of the demand
properly made upon education—the development of a
capacity for high thinking and right feeling is equally
In a striking article on "The Columniated Collegian,"
 published in The Atlantic Monthly, June, 1915,
Mary Leal Harkness says: "So we come to one of the
gravest charges that can be brought against the 'new
education': that, while it may bring jobs to men and
women when they are young, it provides nothing for the
man or woman retired from that job by age. If there is
anything beneath the stars more pitiable than an
elderly man or woman with no active purpose left in
life and no intellectual resources from which to draw
occupation and interest, I have not yet seen it."
Only the full mind and the warm heart can find high
contentment; so, even from a selfish standpoint, the
necessity for the development of all sides of the self
must be admitted. Capability and culture are not to be
divorced. Modern life demands men and women who can do
things, who can think clearly while in the thick of
action, and who to their judgment and initiative
have added ideals of courage, of sympathy, and of
Parents and teachers who can see below the surface
recognize the true goal of life to be a
self-development which is expressed in service. As a
result, they demand that the curriculum shall not be
narrowed to the purely utilitarian. There must be an
education newer than "the new"—an education which
is a blend of the new economic studies and the old
cultural subjects. True efficiency can be realized only
through the enrichment of personality. Indeed, the
problem of education is fundamentally the problem of
the development of personality.
 When the question "To what purpose?" is applied as a
test to the subject-matter of the course of studies it
must be answered in the light of this larger problem.
Hence, the educational leaders who are meeting the
foregoing question are agreed that
LITERATURE MUST BE MADE THE KEYSTONE OF THE EDUCATIONAL ARCH
conclusion has been reached because it is the
ex-pansion of individual life into world-life that is
desired, and literature is built of the stuff of
world-life; it is the art-form of the best that has
been thought, felt, and done since the beginning of
man's conscious life in the world. Literature reveals
man to himself. It interprets his thoughts, emotions
and experiences. It deepens his understanding of other
men: their temptations and failures, their aspirations
and successes. Through knowing himself and his fellows
he becomes better fitted for cooperation. Every time a
piece of real literature has become a part of himself,
the man has advanced further into the meaning and
purpose of life. And by "literature" is not meant those
forms which move only the minds of the highly educated
few, but those true, beautiful, strong and good
creations which appeal also to the many.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CULTIVATING THE IMAGINATION
Not only does literature enlarge the sympathies and
deepen the understanding, but it quickens the
imagina-  tion. Imagination is too often interpreted as idle
fantasy—vague, pointless dreaming. On the
contrary, it is the clarifying chemical in the crucible
of the mind, and useful in the last degree. Imagination
pictures vividly all the possibilities of a given
situation. It reveals causes and forecasts results. It
analyzes and reconstructs. In field, shop, store,
office, forum, study, and home, it rules the world
because it is the creative force of the mind and the
The complex problems of modern life can be solved only
by men and women of highly developed imagination. It is
the woman with imagination who transforms the daily
round of her home and social duties into an interesting
adventure, or if her work lies in some other field of
activity makes herself felt as a real force in life. It
is the business man with imagination who becomes a
millionaire. It is the professional man with
imagination who reaches the head of his profession. It
is the scientist with imagination who makes the world
rich by his discoveries. "Assign to almost any task
requiring thought an imaginative man with scant logic,
and an unimaginative logician; nine times out of ten
the former will handle it more successfully."
The longings and imaginings of the race have
foreshadowed all the modern scientific inventions. The
Kalevala, the great epic of the Finns, sung in runes as
early as 2000 B.C., tells of a battle in which takes
part a monster eagle of steel and iron, filled with a
thousand magic heroes. The dread Zeppelin has not quite
 the power of its "hero-feathered" forerunner,
but—the future! The Norse centuries ago told
tales of "hill--borers" which could tunnel through the
rockiest mountains, and of "stream-suckers" which
changed the current of great rivers. The Panama Canal
and a thousand other engineering feats of today are
monuments to these dreams of the ages. Fairy lore is
filled with stories of calls heard round the world. The
telegraph, the telephone, and last of all, Marconi's
message of sound, have made the old tales come true.
Madam Curie's discovery of radium has brought the
inexhaustible store and the magic healing substance
from fairyland into real life.
Again, literature develops the imagination through its
power of inducing keen emotions which perpetuate its
images. These images are concrete, vivid, vital and
beautiful. They become a part of the mind's store
house, and are its inexhaustible food. The man whose
mind is so developed is fortified against boredom,
loneliness, poverty and misfortune.
"Education of the soul by literature," says Professor
George Edward Woodberry, "is a very real thing. It
issues in insight into life and fate, in sympathy with
whatever is human, in apprehension of what seems
divine—issues, that is, in greater power to
CULTURE SHOULD BEGIN IN CHILDHOOD
Those who recognize the power of literature recognize
equally well that it must be brought into the life of
the youth at the earliest possible time. The
 literature should be through the first stories that are
presented to the child in the nursery and in the
kindergarten. The power of the story in the life of the
child is equally as great as that of the literature
read by the youth and by the man. It is because the
social worker, the teacher, the mother, are coming to
realize its force that a revival of story-telling is
sweeping through the entire world. Indeed, so
wide-spread is this revival that in some cases the
story is being misused. Because of the child's natural
love for it, the uninteresting and the indolent seize
upon the story as the too-facile tool for accomplishing
their ends. Nature stories, music stories, bed-time
stories, all sorts and conditions of stories, are
thrust upon the child.
Fortunately, this fulness of story-telling cannot destroy the
fundamental appeal of the story for him. Yet there is a
real danger here which both teacher and mother should
recognize and guard against. No story which is not
real literature should be given him. There is
little excuse for cluttering the mind of a child with
"ill-chosen or ill-adapted twaddle tales," in Dr.
Stanley Hall's pungent phrase. It is not enough that a
story be a story. It should be literature as well, for
the best stories are litera-ture. Fortunately,
there is a great wealth of old stories full of truth
and fancy, and couched in language which in choice and
arrangement of words erects solid standards for the
child. Primitive man wove these tales out of his heart
to interpret himself, physical nature, and God. Because
the child's attitude toward life is so nearly the same
as that of primitive man, these stories are the child's
"natural soul-food." In them he finds himself.
 In them his own half-formed thoughts and longings are
expressed. His free spirit finds its realization in
bird-plumage, wishing-caps, magic carpets, and
seven-league boots. His wonder and questionings meet
and mingle with the wonder and the questionings of the
race. His imagination finds satisfaction and expansion
in the primitive answers to these questions. His love
of beauty is satisfied and increased by his glimpses of
fairyland. His hunger for adventure is appeased
vicariously as he journeys with Jack-the-Giant-Killer,
Robin Hood, St. George, or any other of the splendid
company of unconquerable heroes. His sense of justice
is satisfied and intensified through the inevitable law
of the tale that good is rewarded and evil punished.
His faith is fixed that somehow, somewhere, things
always come out right for the one who has done his
best. Courage, kindness, and helpfulness are made
beautiful to him through the deeds of the heroes he
most admires. It is through these great old stories
that his attitudes toward life are fixed.
Dr. Stanley Hall says: "Let me tell the stories and I
care not who writes the textbooks." Stories broaden and
interpret the child's own experience. They introduce
him to the world of interesting fact. They enlarge his
vocabulary and give him added power of self-expression.
They kindle his imagination. They deepen his
appreciation of the beautiful. They stimulate moral
discriminations. They counteract the baser sights and
sounds of the street or in the "movies." They awaken
his sympathies and increase his sense of social
relationships. They lift him out of the commonplace.
They carry him
 to foreign strands. They quicken his sense of humor.
They present to him ideals. They give him "dramatic
joy." It is through stories that a foundation is laid
for full and efficient living.
SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- If you believe that it is possible to
over-emphasize the story in the life of the child, show
- Illustrate how some children lead story-lives. If
you have personally had any such experience, give it.
- In leading story-lives, do children confine their
fancies and little dramas to stories they have heard,
or do they also invent?
- What did Plato mean when he said that the way to
teach the child truth was to teach him fiction?
- Can you cite any definite instance showing the
value that has come to a child by telling him stories?
GRIST FROM OTHER MILLS
The Appreciation of Literature, George Edward
Woodberry, Chapters I and VII.
What Can Literature Do for Me? C. Alphonso
Aims of Literary Study, Hiram D. Corson.
Literature in the Elementary Schools, Porter
Lander MacClintock, Chapter II.
Story-Telling, Edna Lyman, Chapter on "The
Responsibility of Society for What Children Read."
NOTE: It is suggested that from the foregoing books,
as well as from this chapter, the student make a list
of the various services which the story may perform for
the child. For example, Edward Porter St. John, in his
Stories and Story-Telling, gives seven aims of
- To add to the pleasure of those who listen,
including making a lesson attractive.
- To seek to introduce children to the best
- For use in connection with language study.
- For general intellectual training.
- For illustrating some unfamiliar truth.
- For culture of the imagination.
- With the aim of influencing conduct and character.
"To make the child feel intensely the strivings of
others, and to make him feel the light and shades of
feeling in many a live situation is to give him an
opportunity for moral training and an exhortation to be
—E. N. AND G.E. PARTRIDGE, Story-Telling in School and Home.
"And how much capable mothers might derive from
Wordsworth's poetry for the spiritual nurture of their
children. Capable mothers are, alas! comparatively few;
but forces are now at work which are increasing the
number of such mothers, and will continue to increase
it more and more as the ideals of true womanhood are
more and more realized and exalted.
—HIRAM D. CORSON, The Voice and Spiritual Education.
"The highest use of all literature is not to fill us
with facts, but to set us to thinking. We teach the
children history not half so much in order that they
may know, and always remember, things that have
happened, as that they may understand life, and how to
meet it. We repeat poetry to the little ones and tell
them fairy tales, not merely to amuse them, nor as an
exercise for the memory, but as a stimulus to the
imagination and to the aesthetic sense. The Old
Testament stories serve both these purposes. The
spontaneous instincts of the child, and the almost
equally spontaneous revelations of human nature in
these stories, correspond one to another as face
answers to face in water. The perpetual splendor of
sentences in the Old Testament, the lofty sublimity of
its suggestions, appeal to the sensuous nature of the
child as no other literature does; and there is no
nobler endowment of a well-born and well-bred human
being than a rich sensuous nature."
—LOUISE SEYMOUR HOUGHTON, Telling Bible Stories.
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