Earlier this week, Cozy Classics appeared on the front page of the Life & Entertainment section of the The Toronto Star. Here’s our response to Linda Cameron, an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, who claimed that our series “won’t help [children] learn to read, move their imaginations or turn them into lovers of the classics”:
We respectfully disagree!
Cameron is talking about reading in a narrow scholastic sense. What Cozy Classics aims to foster especially is early literacy, which is “everything children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. Early literacy is a baby who chews on a book, a toddler who wants his favorite book read over and over, and a preschooler who ‘reads’ the story to you from memory” (Multnomah County Library). Like other developmentally-appropriate books, Cozy Classics can help create a fun “literacy-rich environment” that will pave the way for success with reading. This includes reading the “same” books that mommy and daddy like!
By Cameron’s own admission, her granddaughter would “love the illustrations,” and as every child knows, illustrations alone stoke the imagination. This is especially true when the illustrations are accompanied by only twelve words, which compels — and frees — children to imagine how the story goes. Just the other day, Jack’s four year-old daughter said, “I’m Elizabeth Bennet, and you” — she pointed at her sister — “are Jane Bennet!” before proceeding to act out her own version. That kind of dramatic play is imagination in action. (And better that she should imagine herself a spunky literary heroine like Lizzy Bennet than any number of hyper-commercialized characters.)
Will reading Cozy Classics turn children into lovers of classics? Despite Cameron’s bold assertion, no one can say for sure. Obviously, reading Cozy Classics can’t guarantee that children will love the classics, any more than reading to children can guarantee that they will love books. But we’re willing to bet that if parents and other adults share their passion for the classics, if classics form the basis of fun early literacy experiences, if literary characters lodge themselves in the hearts and minds of children, and if children develop positive associations with classic stories from a young age, there’s a mighty good chance they will one day seek out the originals of the stories they’ve always loved.
(Look at our pal Nico, who’s learning to read, pouring over Pride and Prejudice!)