‘Illuminating Childhood’ author Ellen Handler Spitz on air: books are “cultural nutrition”

by Shaun Manning on December 20, 2012

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Ellen Handler Spitz, author of Illuminating Childhood: Portraits in Fiction, Film, and Drama, appeared on the Marc Steiner Show to discuss the importance of good books for young readers and what to look for when choosing a book to fill kids’ stockings. Dr. Spitz and two other guests spoke about the evolution of books created for children, as authors are now tackling broader, and often more complex, subject matter, including biographies of jazz musicians and a history of the Macy’s parades. But Dr. Spitz cautioned that, while there is now an abundance of reading material available, not all of it is of a high quality.

“I feel passionately that, just as we think of the food that we give to our children and we want to give them something nourishing–we want to give them fruit juice instead of soda pop, and we want to give them fruits and vegetables instead of candy–I think their cultural lives, what goes into their minds and into their heads, is equally important,” she said. “And I think that parents and teachers and editors and the writers themselves need to think very seriously about the cultural lives of children. When you are a child, you are a sponge—everything goes in. Every subtle hint becomes a part of your psychic equipment. I think that’s critically important. If I have any message to give to listeners of this program, it’s that as you think about the nutrition of your child, think also about the cultural nutrition.”

Listen to radio program at the Marc Steiner Show site, and read Illuminating Childhood for more of Dr. Spitz’s insights.

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