“For those of you involved in Children’s Services… especially if you’ve been involved over a period of say… at least three years… I wanted to start a discussion about how children have changed, more specifically their attention spans. I’m finding it harder and harder to gain their attention for stories. The second you sing, dance, puppet, move around, play the guitar, etc., they’re engaged, but books aren’t grabbing them the way they used to, it seems. Just curious to know if anyone else is having this experience or has made this observation.”
From a post on ALA Think Tank’s FB page (I tried to find the link—it’s only a few week’s old—but holy shit people post a ton in that group.)
Ah yes, the old “kids these days” game. Adults have been playing that game since time immemorial. In addition to blaming kids, the comments in the post also blame the parents and, of course, society. Do you know who they don’t blame? It shouldn’t be hard to guess if one understands the extreme ressentiment of librarians. That’s right: themselves! Not a single person had the guts to say: “If children don’t like the books we read, maybe it’s because we’re shitty storytellers.” But, hey, that would require some seriously incisive self-knowledge. Much easier to avoid the hard work of changing ourselves by blaming something that lies outside our area of control.
By the way, the only other correct response to such an inane post would be this: Because we ignore those “passionate things” (see Sendak quote in sidebar) in favor of cultural things and educational things, it’s no wonder kids are bored out of their gourds with the books we read to them. We would be bored too, if our favorite artforms were designed merely to teach or reflect ourselves back at us.
“'Goodnight Moon' does two things right away: It sets up a world and then it subverts its own rules even as it follows them. It works like a sonata of sorts, but, like a good version of the form, it does not follow a wholly predictable structure. Many children’s books do, particularly for this age, as kids love repetition and the books supply it. They often end as we expect, with a circling back to the start, and a fun twist. This is satisfying but it can be forgettable. Kids — people — also love depth and surprise, and 'Goodnight Moon' offers both.”
“The struggle against purpose in art is always a struggle against the moralizing tendency in art, against the subordination of art to morality. L’art pour l’art means : ‘the devil take morality!’—But this very hostility betrays that moral prejudice is still dominant. When one has excluded from art the purpose of moral preaching and human improvement it by no means follows that art is completely purposeless, goalless, meaningless, in short l’art pour l’art—a snake biting its own tail. ‘Rather no purpose at all than a moral purpose!’—thus speaks mere passion. A psychologist asks on the other hand: what does all art do? does it not praise? does it not glorify? does it not select? does it not highlight? By doing all this it strengthens or weakens certain valuations.”