• The Dyslexia Initiative

Protecting the Dreamer

by Ashley Roberts


Let's talk about our children.

As we approach the end of summer, if they're little, they're playing their hearts out, trying to hold onto the last of their freedom with all of their might. If they're older they may be sleeping as much as possible, playing as many video games as possible.


Regardless of what they're doing, they're being who they are, and it's beyond beautiful.

Their beautiful imaginations are leading them on adventures, through play, through life.

They may be flying high over tall buildings.

Or getting ready to explore brave new worlds.

They inspire themselves in all they do.

I don't know about your child, but mine used to sing to himself and create wonderful adventures with his toys when he thought no one was listening. I have a recording of his little three year old self singing after a bath and saying "YAY!!!!!!!!" after each verse of his made up song.


I thought the imagination and creative instincts he had would always be present, and when he first started school I didn't consider the implications of school expectations or the idea of conformity on that part of who he was.


With the struggle to learn to read for a dyslexic child, with the fight for services, what we are doing is fighting for the life of our child. In a society that functions on literacy, being illiterate has dire consequences, so we do all we can in the literacy battle for our child.


We gladly do this.


We willingly do this.


But in our battle for the right to literacy for our child, what we seldom give voice to, is that we are fighting for the child that sings to himself, that builds rocket ships out of cardboard boxes, that creates entire civilizations out of Legos, in drawings and in Minecraft, that finds another world through the door of a wardrobe and has great adventures.


In my battle for my child, I never once thought to ask myself how I protect the creative side, the imagination? Yes, I said plenty of times that I was protecting who he is inside, but I didn't give a voice to the artist within.


The following story is an extreme example of the loss of the creative side:


Once a little boy went to school.


One morning The teacher said: "Today we are going to make a picture."


"Good!" thought the little boy. He liked to make all kinds; Lions and tigers, Chickens and cows, Trains and boats; And he took out his box of crayons And began to draw.


But the teacher said, "Wait!" "It is not time to begin!" And she waited until everyone looked ready. "Now," said the teacher, "We are going to make flowers."


"Good!" thought the little boy, He liked to make beautiful ones With his pink and orange and blue crayons.


But the teacher said "Wait!" "And I will show you how." And it was red, with a green stem. "There," said the teacher, "Now you may begin."


The little boy looked at his teacher's flower Then he looked at his own flower. He liked his flower better than the teacher's But he did not say this. He just turned his paper over, And made a flower like the teacher's. It was red, with a green stem.


On another day The teacher said: "Today we are going to make something with clay."

"Good!" thought the little boy; He liked clay. He could make all kinds of things with clay: snakes and snowmen, Elephants and mice, Cars and trucks And he began to pull and pinch his ball of clay.


But the teacher said, "Wait!" "It is not time to begin!" And she waited until everyone looked ready. "Now," said the teacher, "We are going to make a dish."


"Good!" thought the little boy, He liked to make dishes. And he began to make some That were all shapes and sizes. But the teacher said "Wait!" "And I will show you how." And she showed everyone how to make One deep dish. "There," said the teacher, "Now you may begin."


The little boy looked at the teacher's dish; Then he looked at his own. He liked his better than the teacher's But he did not say this. He just rolled his clay into a big ball again And made a dish like the teacher's. It was a deep dish.


And pretty soon The little boy learned to wait, And to watch And to make things just like the teacher. And pretty soon He didn't make things of his own anymore.


Then it happened That the little boy and his family Moved to another house, In another city, and the little boy Had to go to another school.


The teacher said: "Today we are going to make a picture." "Good!" thought the little boy. And he waited for the teacher To tell what to do.


the teacher didn't say anything. She just walked around the room. When she came to the little boy She asked, "Don't you want to make a picture?" "Yes," said the little boy. "What are we going to make?" "I don't know until you make it," said the teacher.


"How shall I make it?" asked the little boy. "Why, anyway you like," said the teacher. "And any color?" asked the little boy. "Any color," said the teacher.


And he began to make a red flower with a green stem.


~Helen Buckley, The Little Boy (HT Amanda White)


In the fight for literacy, for services, for inclusion, for education we fight for the right to literacy, but we must also inform our schools that we are also fighting to protect the dreamer.


For my child I believe in the idea of non-conformity. I don't know if I am succeeding, but I frequently tell him that no place gets to define him, that no one gets to define him, least of all me.


Embracing and encouraging all of who they are, what they feel, how they see the world and how they choose to express their view, these are the keys to protecting their imagination and in protecting their imagination we protect that sacred thing that is play.


We are fighting for the right to literacy for our children, but we fight for their souls, and it is within those beautiful souls that we protect and unleash the artists, creators, inventors, musicians, writers, the dream-achievers of the future.


In all that we do, day to day in advocacy, we must protect this sacred part of who they are and help to remind our educational community that education is far more than facts, figures and standardized tests. We cannot lose sight of this part of all children. We must protect the dreams, the imagination, the play.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=kQjtK32mGJQ

("Alike" is an animated short film directed by Daniel Martínez Lara & Rafa Cano Méndez www.alike.es)

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