Today I'm happy to present a guest post from Mary E. Lambert! Ms. Lambert is the author of the MG book, Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes.
Here we go!
Have you ever thought about how selfish babies are?
They only think about themselves.
They cry if they’re hungry.
Or if they have a dirty diaper.
And if they want to be held—or set down.
Babies do not care if you are tired or doing the dishes or trying to relax after a long, hard day. They have no respect for the fact that it's 3:30 in the morning and you have to get up for work in just two hours. They really do have a profound lack of empathy.
We are not born with the ability to see the world through another’s eyes. For much of our lives, we are confined by our own perceptions and consciousness. It is not inherently bred in us to consider the feelings of others. This is why parents must teach young children that it is rude to bite or hit or point or say things like “That man has a big nose.” To learn empathy takes time, effort… and imagination.
It is only through imagination that we can inhabit a world outside of ourselves. Even with the newest virtual reality games, players are still locked into their own consciousness. But in dreams and in stories, we can sometimes leave ourselves behind to inhabit another place, another time, or perhaps most relevantly, another perspective.
All kinds of stories—movies, plays, television shows, tales told around a campfire—can reveal other worlds and viewpoints to the listener, but something magical happens when a reader, particularly a young one, finds himself or herself immersed in a good book. In a way that is truly unique to the novel, these stories allow us to think another’s thoughts. In On Writing, Stephen King goes so far as to call it a kind of telepathy. The character’s reasoning, emotions, and adventures become our own. We encounter the world through someone else's eyes. It is the closest we can come to comprehending another’s consciousness, and when those experiences translate into our experiences, we begin to understand others better than ever before. This is especially powerful for young readers.
As school-age children, we first explore the world independent of sheltering parents and caretakers. After six, seven, or eight years on the planet, we are more aware of peers and less interested in moms and dads and siblings. This is the age when our character is being formed, when we start to find our place in society, and when we are exposed to some of life’s harsher realities. This is why I have always found middle grade books to be so compelling. The novels from our childhood shape us in innumerable ways, giving us our first glimpse of another’s story.
I will always remember devouring the Ramona books as I thought to myself, “Now, here is someone who understands me—who knows what it’s like to be young and overlooked.” I remember the brush with poverty I experienced when I read Where the Red Fern Grows. While Number the Stars showed me the dire situation of Jewish families during the Second World War, and I suddenly cared more deeply about history. I experienced a similar reaction when I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and the injustice of segregation became more real than any explanation from a textbook or teacher.Books, at their best, make us better and more compassionate people by showing us the world through the eyes of others. We feel both joy and sorrow along with the characters from our most beloved stories, and as a result, our hearts grow. In The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente rather poignantly observes: “One ought not to judge her: all children are Heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb high trees and say shocking things and leap so very high grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one. But, as in their reading and arithmetic and drawing, different children proceed at different speeds. (It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.)”
Love this guest post! Thank you so much to Ms. Lambert for participating in this event! :)
Author bio: Mary E. Lambert lives in Arizona where she teaches middle school English. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes is her debut novel. Mary spends a vast deal of time grading essays, deleting words from whatever story she is in the process of writing, and reading about all the places in the world she plans to visit someday. Mary is extremely proud of the last game night she had with her family when she beat all of her siblings at Settlers of Catan. You can learn more about her new novel at maryelambert.com or follow her on Twitter at @MaryUncontrary.
Here are a few links: