Maya Angelou once said, “When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.” The power of literature on a young person’s sense of identity is no secret, Angelou herself declaring its necessity in finding one’s place in the world. Literature holds a significant title in the process of discovery in children, and it does so through its promotion of creativity.
Often referred to as “the brain's invisible muscle”, creativity is stimulated in young minds while reading, allowing it to be developed by exercise like any other muscle. For this reason, the more you read, the stronger and more flourished their creativity becomes. My mother always told me that she never missed any of my bedtime readings when I was growing up. I often found myself thinking “what would the protagonist do?” whenever I was confronted with an issue that I wasn’t quite sure how to solve. Adding reading into my nightly routine promoted a constant flow of inspiration and, thus, creativity.
The courageous characters, exciting adventures, fascinating settings and, of course, the nail-biting challenges are all key to creative inspiration. Stories, whether fiction or not, expose children to scenarios which they can relate to their own lives. A developing mind sees a valiant warrior overcoming their biggest fear and their imagination runs wild, allowing them to picture themselves as this very champion. The creativity promoted through reading about these adventures encourages their own moments of discovery in the real world.
I’ve written poetry for as long as I can remember, it’s nothing new to me. But, like many other teenagers, I too went through the “reading is so lame” phase in high school. What I didn’t realise back then was that, with my book drought came a confidence drought as well. The vocabulary enriched by frequent reading provides children with the tools to share their ideas and opinions. Confidence in expressing themselves through the creativity promoted by reading is vital, right from the start in having faith in their decision to choose which book to read. I learned that Kate DiCamillo was right, and “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.”
Furthermore, a recent study found that increasing the study of creative texts in a scholarly setting resulted in an overall improved GPA, proving that the creativity promoted in reading is a broad benefit. The study claims that “creative thinking (divergent thinking) can be enhanced with reading and writing activities implemented through cooperative learning in school-age children”. Reading regularly enables young minds to consider possible solutions for the issues covered in the book, consequently encouraging the development of creative problem-solving. The images and characters described in the texts elicit inspiration in children’s minds, increasing their ability to make sense of the situation at hand and how to deal with it creatively. These new ideas and experiences endorse exploration of their own, looking beyond the words on the page and using creativity to think deeper into their own interpretations. All these qualities gained from the creativity promoted by reading molds children into successful futures because, as Margaret Fuller famously says, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”