Excitement and curiosity are necessary for learning. An interview by Ángela Zorrilla*
Mar Benegas loves words; because she builds verses and stories with them. Specialist in literature and poetry, in addition to a large list of published works, she has a long career as a trainer. Now she has just released her latest book Mordiscos y bocados [Bits & Bites] published by Combel. We talk to her about children’s learning and creativity.
You have just published your latest book Bits & Bites. What will we find in it?
I love to play and think about books as a whole. The book as an object before reading, the playful game and the possibilities we have to unite something traditional (such as rhymes based on traditional poetry, children’s rhymes, lap games, songs, lullabies) with the possibilities offered nowadays by the book as an object.
The entire “Marsupiflap” series has been designed along these lines: flaps, game, pop-up, die-cuts or mirrors, with rhymed texts to sing along and accompany the explorative game with the book, manipulation and playful amazement. In this case, Bites & Bites, as its title suggests, is a book with all the nibbled pages, full of cut-outs, where the baby (who recognizes himself /herself and gets to know the world by biting it) has to guess which animal has left the marks on each page. With the rhythm of rhymes and surprise at the end.
Where do you get these ideas from?
Especially from my contact with the young boys and girls. From sharing many hours, many sessions, of telling stories and singing to them. That makes me very interested in knowing what things they are looking for, they like, their reactions, observing them… I like to write for all ages and I think a lot about whether or not I have something to offer to that specific age group, and whether I have something to tell them or not.
A bitten book, a book with a mirror at the end, flaps to call their attention… All those slightly crazy ideas that, luckily, I can see turned into books and enjoy them with the children.
How can we encourage all this creativity with them from home?
The best way to promote something is to practice it; with the little ones, if they are older, the prohibition also works very well; If we want to promote reading, the best way is to read together, separately… Having books at hand and sharing the reading, the opinions, and debates… It happens the same with creativity. Allow ourselves to play, to create, to rhyme… Let’s copy ideas from the books we like. For example, what other animals could bite the book? Then let’s play making easy rhymes and thinking about those bites and how they would look like. Let’s look for a way to make creativity present, because, more than anything else, we are an example.
And, of course, let’s find a way to nurture artistic aesthetics, listening and beauty: let’s go to theaters, visit museums, listen to stories, go to meetings with authors … because food for the soul is as important as that for the body.
Why is it so necessary to learn by playing?
Piaget and Vygotsky said that emotion is necessary for learning. When enjoyment, curiosity or emotion are involved, knowledge is never forgotten. This is how we learn the most important things. Playing is the greatest generator of emotions and sensations that exists, something very serious, which not only represents a hobby. Therefore, everything learned through play is learned more and better.
What role do libraries or cultural centers play in the education of a minor?
A library, in itself, does not mean anything, nor a cultural center. They must have a respectful look towards childhood (many libraries and cultural centers neglect what is aimed at children) and, of course, a public vocation. If these requirements are met, they become temples that safeguard and encourage real equality, access to culture and the opportunities that this entails.
Libraries and cultural centers should be a possibility, a discovery, a path, and somehow make up for the shortcomings of some childhoods, accompany them and give them flight. To fight, in short, against a system that pushes us towards malnutrition, rickety souls hungry for beauty, for stories, for book poetry: the library must be that food.
* Full Spanish text originally published in esVivir.com, translated with permission.