Children Writing Stories

Children Writing Stories

Children Writing Stories

Children Writing Stories

Excerpt

This is a book about the stories that children write: about their literary form, about their aesthetic and ethical content, about their significance for an understanding of intellectual growth, learning and teaching, education as a cultural enterprise. The book is the sequel to an earlier work, Closely Observed Children, first published in 1980. In Closely Observed Children, I set out to describe the intellectual life of a class of eight- to nine-year-old children in a primary school in rural Leicestershire. In particular I wanted to document the seriousness of purpose which I witnessed in children’s thought and action, their ‘high intent’, as I called it (Armstrong 1980: 206). That seriousness, at once earnest and playful, was evident in every aspect of these children’s work: in their writing, their art, their mathematics, their model making, their nature study. I was led to conclude that

from their earliest acquaintance with the various traditions of human
thought, with literature, art, mathematics, science, and the like, [chil
dren] struggle to make use of these several traditions, of the constraints
which they impose as well as the opportunities which they present, to
examine, extend and express in a fitting form their own experience and
understanding.

(1980: 129)

The life of reason, I argued, was coterminous with the beginnings of learning.

The present book takes children’s high intent for granted. My purpose is to explore the ways in which that intent is manifested in one particular domain, that of written narrative. What follows is a sequence of studies in literary imagination, an investigation into the natural history of narrative during the years of childhood. In the preface to his three-volume masterpiece, Time and Narrative (1984), Paul Ricoeur defines narrative, or, more precisely the plot, as ‘the privileged means by which we reconfigure our confused, unformed and at the limit mute temporal experience’ (1984: xi). Ricoeur draws his examples . . .

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