September 9, 2014 | Posted in Basics, Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine, Development, News, Nutrition, Pediatrics, Prevention

The images a child is given are as important for health as the food a child eats.


These images are included in stories you tell your child – for example, about your own childhood. The child creates images from hearing your spoken word. Making inner pictures from hearing the spoken word is how the child builds imagination.

Pictures are ready-made in books, however as the child hears the story in the book unfold, the pictures in the child’s mind become more elaborate, through the child’s own creativity.

Media, with continuous picture images, offers a finished image to the eyes without any effort, and actually fills the imagination of the child with another’s imagination, which the child then needs to process and try to integrate. This fills up the child’s inner soul life, leaving little room for his/her own creativity.

How can a parent be empowered to navigate the world of books and media to support healthy child development at different ages? At all ages, it is important that the parent pick and choose a wise diet of images for the child. Be a filter and screen things for your child, approaching the task with diplomacy as well as strength as the child grows older.

Until 6 or 7 years old, the best relationship a child has with literature is with a parent sitting with him/her to read real books.

The young child takes in the world as though everything is pure goodness. See Child Development. Classical fairy tales bring archetypes of what is good and bad, what is true and false, what is beautiful and ugly, passed down through many ages of human history. These meaningful images presented to a young child, nourish and provide a foundation for an inner standard of morality to be developed as the child grows. Children’s literature should not be inane or trivial or all cartoons. Amusement is not the point of children’s literature. A child is preparing to face real life. Stories can bring instruction for real life appropriate to each age through the symbols in fairy tales, myths, and meaningful stories.

From first to 6th grade, myths (Norse and Greek and Roman) and stories of creation and fables can be matched with child development. For instance, in the Waldorf School curriculum (reference) the school day begins with fairy tales for the first grade, fables and stories of humans choosing noble and courageous deeds for the second grade, stories from the Old Testament for the 3rd grade, Norse myths for 4th grade, and stories of Buddha, Zarathustra, Egypt and Greece in 5th grade. In 6th grade, stories from history beginning with Rome and moving forward, are the foundation for school subjects. The teacher tells the story, so children have an opportunity to develop a rich imaginative life.

From sixth grade onward, history and biography are important sources of stories and literature for children. The child is taking in facts and patterns of culture and choices in human life that relate to the world he/she is joining more fully year by year. Parents can make a very big impact by choosing the diet of images, as discussed below.

  • Newberry Award books have been chosen since 1922 to identify well-written children’s literature for ages 8 to 15 years old, and are marked as to the age they are written for.
  • Caldecott Award books have beautiful art work and are a similarly reliable source of children’s books.

Generally, these Awards identify sound literature for children. But you are still the filter, the screen, so even for these time-trusted sources, take a peek at the content to see if it is right for your child.

  • In the public library, Dewey Decimal section 398.xx contains folk lore from around the world. Many of these books are filled with morals and pictures of beauty in human life and the world. Please be familiar with the library shelves your grade school child is perusing, and show an interest in what is checked out so you can support or re-direct choices and have an insight into the young person’s evolving questions about life.

Screen-free days as a family event are an important way to show human beings are primary, not technology. A parent should be a filter for the diet of screen images as well, often most diplomatically achieved by having time to focus on the child’s life and developing authentic conversations about the child’s interests.

Things to avoid in children’s literature exposure:

  • books and screen presentations which present amorality, such as killing for entertainment;
  • sexuality, cannibalism, self-cutting, torture, drinking, promoted at young ages and described in grisly detail;
  • learning to denigrate and mock, such as mocking the family, hard work, religion, other races or worldviews.

This is an age that can blur good and evil, and present false images. A book may sound like a fairy tale, but in fact be very far from the archetypal instruction of choosing good and evil which classic fairy tales contain.

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Addictive Behaviour in Children and Young Adults  The Struggle for Freedom, Goldberg, Raoul, Floris Books, 2012

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, Orenstein, Peggy Harper/Harper Collins, 2012

Distracted:  The Erosion of Attention in the Coming Dark Age,  Jackson, Maggie,  Prometheus Books,  2008

Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think And What We Can Do About It, Healy, Jane, Simon & Schuster, 1999

Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds — and What We Can Do About It,  Healy, Jane, Simon & Schuster, 1999

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, Pipher, Mary, Riverhead Trade, 2005

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, Payne, Kim John, Random House, 2010.  Simplicity Parenting is not just a book: it’s a Movement.  The Center For Social Sustainability | 65 Laurel Park, Northampton, MA, 01060 | 413-727-8086



Caldecott medal book awards:

Newbery medal book awards:

Mythology:  Joseph Campbell Foundation:
Simplicity parenting:

Waldorf curriculum:


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