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A Little Literacy, Please: Alice Wonders about Science & Fiction

By Leslie Lindsay

You have probably heard of her, too.  Alison Gopnik, a world-renown developmental psychologist who studied at the University of Oxford and now teaches at the University of California-Berkeley has penned such parenting books as The Scientist in the Crib (Harper, 2000) and The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life (Picador, 2010)

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What you might not know is her favorite childhood books were Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.  As an empirical developmental psychologist, it was no wonder  (ha) that Ms. Gopnik identified with Alice’s character.  “I was Alice”  I shared her name, long hair, and dreamy absentmindedness.  I had a preference for logic and imagination over common sense.  I too, was bewildered by the blindness of grown-ups, esxpecially their failure to recognize that children were smarter than they were.” 

Alison Gopnik continues to explain in All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book (Roaring Book Press, 2009) that Alice in Wonderland is the link between logic and imagination, and between those two entities is the time period we all refer to as “childhood.”  It is through our unique ability to understand our world by creating theories, the same as we do when we fall into the fictional world of a book.

Lewis Carroll originally published Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland in 1865.  It nearly immediately made itself a cultural icon, and has never been out-of-print.  The book originated when Charles Dodgson took the Lindell children on a boat trip.  One of those children, Alice Lindell begged him to write down the saga.  And so he did, choosing the pen name Lewis Carroll.  The the zany tale of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, where her world is literally turned upside down, we see how these books not only challenge logic, but exemplify childhood imagination.

Check out my guest blog post today, “Through a Mother’s Eyes: Childhood Apraxia of Speech” on ChildTalk, www.talkingkids.org hosted by Becca Jarzynski, CCC-SLP of Wisconsin. 

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