News & Press Archive

Children need art and stories and poems

Wise words from Philip Pullman, who received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005:

Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. If you don’t give a child food, the damage quickly becomes visible. If you don’t let a child have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don’t give a child love, the damage might not be seen for some years, but it’s permanent.

But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.

It’s true that some people grow up never encountering art of any kind, and are perfectly happy and live good and valuable lives, and in whose homes there are no books, and they don’t care much for pictures, and they can’t see the point of music. Well, that’s fine. I know people like that. They are good neighbours and useful citizens.

But other people, at some stage in their childhood or their youth, or maybe even their old age, come across something of a kind they’ve never dreamed of before. It is as alien to them as the dark side of the moon. But one day they hear a voice on the radio reading a poem, or they pass by a house with an open window where someone is playing the piano, or they see a poster of a particular painting on someone’s wall, and it strikes them a blow so hard and yet so gentle that they feel dizzy. Nothing prepared them for this. They suddenly realise that they’re filled with a hunger, though they had no idea of that just a minute ago; a hunger for something so sweet and so delicious that it almost breaks their heart. They almost cry, they feel sad and happy and alone and welcomed by this utterly new and strange experience, and they’re desperate to listen closer to the radio, they linger outside the window, they can’t take their eyes off the poster. They wanted this, they needed this as a starving person needs food, and they never knew. They had no idea.

That is what it’s like for a child who does need music or pictures or poetry to come across it by chance. If it weren’t for that chance, they might never have met it, and might have passed their whole lives in a state of cultural starvation without knowing it.

The effects of cultural starvation are not dramatic and swift. They’re not so easily visible.

And, as I say, some people, good people, kind friends and helpful citizens, just never experience it; they’re perfectly fulfilled without it. If all the books and all the music and all the paintings in the world were to disappear overnight, they wouldn’t feel any the worse; they wouldn’t even notice.

But that hunger exists in many children, and often it is never satisfied because it has never been awakened. Many children in every part of the world are starved for something that feeds and nourishes their soul in a way that nothing else ever could or ever would.

We say, correctly, that every child has a right to food and shelter, to education, to medical treatment, and so on. We must understand that every child has a right to the experience of culture. We must fully understand that without stories and poems and pictures and music, children will starve.

  1. Speech and drama improves your public speaking skills. Forcing yourself to speak in front of people will help you get better at it! Volume, enunciation, pitch, inflection – they come in handy in a professional setting.
  2. You learn the value of teamwork. In a Drama environment, you learn to compromise and collaborate with many different kinds of people. Drama and Theatre people know — every individual is valuable, not just the stars.
  3. You’ll gain confidence. The Drama environment is unique in that it supports and encourages participants to be weird and try new things, even if you make a fool of yourself. Learning to shed your ego is a skill few people are willing to commit to in the real world. You will find more success when you are conditioned to embarrass yourself a little to find it.
  4. It is a surefire way of gaining reading skills. The great thing about Drama is that one piece of text can be interpreted in infinite ways. You will find new ways to approach analysis because you get to act it out instead of just reading it at a desk. Not to mention, there’s nothing like “have this memorised by next week” that will force you to improve your reading skills fast.
  5. You’ll gain a higher appreciation of the written (and spoken) word. Theatre has informed culture all over the world throughout history. Studying it exposes you to many great works of literature and ideas you may not otherwise encounter. Even if you don’t end up pursuing it for the rest of your life, there are few directions in life you can take that haven’t been influenced by the artform.
  6. Your memorisation skills will be on point. It’s a lot more than just remembering words and actions. The memorisation tricks you teach yourself, and the way you learn to multitask on stage can inform the ways you study, work, and organize your mind later on in life.

To enrol your child for our speech & drama classes, contact the Betty Ann Norton Theatre School by clicking here