Long ago I read Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book, Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence. In a section on storytelling I found an astonishing quote: “This imaging is the foundation of future symbolic and metaphoric thought, both concrete and formal operational thinking, higher mathematics, science, philosophy, everything we consider higher mentation or education.”
By “imaging” Pearce refers to an invisible wonder at work inside us––the human ability to create novel mental images. Not on screens that we view, but in our minds’ eyes. “Mentation” is a fancy word for general mind use. What he’s talking about is what takes place in kids’ brains when they engage in creative story play (using toys to tell themselves stories) or when they listen to others tell them stories. In both instances, PET scan studies reveal that kids’ brains literally light up when they’re doing this. They’re firing up a sophisticated intra-web of brain cells that once they’re stimulated lock themselves in place and slowly build with other ones into flexible, creative knowledge that lasts a lifetime. They’re lassoing memories to assist in creating their images and learning new words that fuse those dreams with growing literacy. Not only that, their emotions are at work. The more emotion, the more vivid the imagery and the more indelible that memory becomes.
So as Einstein famously said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” On the surface it seems counter-intuitive that parents reading kids something as non-scientific as fairy tales, or kids listening to them if their parents don’t have the time, might well build the neural nets that will someday enable those same children to master mathematics, science, philosophy and formal operational thinking.
Pretty interesting. Instead of drilling children on numbers, letting them dream makes them better at numbers later.