Guest-editorial: Meenakshi Mohan

Meenakshi Mohan

Children’s World

(Curiosity, fantasy, imagination, and wonder)

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.
Albert Einstein

Children’s world is enlaced with questions like why, what, and where. From the time they open their eyes, their world is full of wonder and fantasy. Have you noticed the wonder in their eyes when they see the spider knitting a web, rain making puddles, or the snow falling from the sky? What goes on in their minds? When I was young, I wondered where the rain came from and what made the rainbow. The ants used to fascinate me when they would carry loads of food on their tiny beings by pulling them and filing in a line to ant holes. I often pretended to be a bird and fly like them, but alas! I also felt sorry for the boys and girls on the streets of Calcutta begging for food. I wondered why they were different than me. Yet, my heart was full of empathy for them when I learned their stories from my mother. Children’s world is full of curiosity, imagination, interpretation, forming meaning, and finding answers.

When my children were young, I would create a story on the spur of the moment, and thus came the stories of Mr. Puppet, who lived in the vent of our apartment, and a Tinker Bell Fairy, who lived under their pillows to give them sweet dreams. And these stories and many more have now found their way to my grandchildren. One day, I was reading a picture book to Veda, my two-year-old granddaughter, Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman. The story was about a baby bird who just came out from the egg but did not know what his mother looked like, so he went looking for his mother. She intently listened to the story and tried to grasp the meaning. Finally, after reading the story several times to her, I stopped and said, “The egg jumped and jumped; then what happened?” With a twinkle in her eyes, she clapped her hands and said, “And Veda came out.” 

One day, we were driving by the National Mall area in Washington D.C. she looked at the Washington Monument and said, “Look, Ammu, such a big pencil. Maybe, it is writing something in the sky.” Children are egocentric learners. They see the world through their lenses. As teachers and parents, we can enhance their learning and help them differentiate between “I” and the “outside world.” I am a children’s person. For me, Children’s Day is every day. Their thinking and how they formulate reasoning fascinate me. That was why Dr. Sunil Sharma of the Setu Bilingual Journal asked me to Guest Edit for the Children’s special for December; I accepted it readily despite knowing how tight my schedule for December was going to be.

Jean Piaget, a child Psychologist who is well known for his Cognitive Development Theory, suggested that children move through different stages of learning. His theory focuses not only on understanding how children acquire knowledge but also on understanding the nature of intelligence. According to him, children are active learners. He called them “Young Explorers.” They observe and assimilate information, interact with the environment around them and build upon existing knowledge and adapt previously held ideas to accommodate new information.

Another important figure in the field of child development is Lev Vygotsky. He believed that curiosity and active involvement with people around them, e.g., parents, teachers, caretakers, and peers, play significant roles in their learning. The roles of adults work as scaffolding or structure for children through which they can climb the ladders of learning. Eurie Bronfenbrenner, through this Ecological Theory, supported this view by saying that children learn through their micro and macro environment. 

Literature of all forms plays a vital role in enhancing and enriching children’s world. They help in developing critical cognitive skills in children. They learn to appreciate their own culture and the culture of others. Emotional intelligence and empathy development could also start early in children. According to Bruno Bettelheim, a psychologist, children’s literature also helps young ones cope with their anxieties and dilemmas by expressing their stories verbally or through their writings and arts. The other day just before Christmas, my daughter told her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter about children who are not so fortunate to have many toys. She quickly went over to her toy basket and sorted out the toys she wanted to give those children. Children’s literature is a gateway for children to enter gently into the world of awareness and learning. It could act as an instrument of mediation for the development of children in a participative and critical way in the learning process.

Exposure to literature could even start before birth. I remember my mother telling me a story about Abhimanyu and chakravyuha. When Arjun’s wife Subhadra was expecting Abhimanyu, Arjun explained chakravyuha (Mahabharat) and how to penetrate it and enter. 

Abhimanyu was listening intently from the womb, but he could not listen to the later part on how to exit as Subhadra fell asleep. Noam Chomsky, an American Linguist and Cognitive Scientist, spoke along the same lines. Through his experiments, he justified that children’s brain comes prewired with language and cognitive skills from the prenatal stage – they respond to their mothers’ voices and music by their movements and heart rates going up. So, storytelling, poetry recitations, or enacting stories are essential for children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. They are significant for their healthy growing up.

This Special on Children’s World is tapping into their questions of “who, what, where, why, when, and how.” As it is said that questions are more important than answers, let children see the world through their lenses. We, as adults, could build the safe, nurturing scaffolding around them, so they have the support to see the world around them – both the good and bad. Our responsibilities as adults are to expose them to a wide variety of literature – poetry, stories of all genres – mythological, historical, folk tales, fables, fantasies, dramatics, illustrative stories, etc. Children’s literature has the task of transforming dreams into realities. Early exposure to literacy is a door-opener in bringing them to enjoy leafing through the pages of their books and writing, illustrating their works.

I would like to thank the Setu Editorial team, especially Dr. Sunil Sharma, for asking me to Guest Edit for Children’s Special (December 2022) – a topic close to my heart. Lastly, I want to thank all the contributors for their writings and illustrations, validating that we all have a “child in us.” 


Meenakshi Mohan
Guest Editor, SETU, December 2022, Children's World

Special Edition: Children's World
Featured Authors

Anita Nahal
Anju Makhija
Carolyn Slovitz
Chaitali Sengupta
Deepa Agarwal
Divya Johar
Gopa Bhattacharjee
Ipsita Ganguli
Jaishree Shanker
Kavita Ezekeil
Kumud Bala
Laija Chanu
Lopamudra Banerjee
Malashri Lal
Mandira Ghosh
Margaret Blake
Meenakshi Mohan
Megha Sood
Misna Chanu
Mohini Sharda
Neelam Saxena Chandra
Pragya Bajpai
Renu Gupta
Roopali Sircar Gaur
Santosh Bakaya
Satabir Chadha
Satinder Kaur
Seema Jain
Sharanya Banerjee
Soumik De
Sukrita Paul Kumar
Sunita Pant Bansal
Swati Pal
Vinita Agrawal
Waheeda Hussain
***

Dr. Meenakshi Mohan Bio:

Dr. Meenakshi Mohan, an internationally published writer, is a scholar, art critic, children’s writer, painter, and poet. She taught at universities in Chicago, Boston, and, more recently, Towson University in Maryland. She received several awards for her excellence in teaching from the universities she has taught. She is listed twice in the Who is Who Among American Teachers.

She specializes in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy. She has published widely in this area and presented numerous papers and workshops. Some of her academic writings and books include Motivational Learning and Art Integrated Curriculum; What is Education? Art, The Emergence of Literacy and Motivation. Her book reviews, art critics, interviews, and poems regularly appear in different journals and anthologies. In addition, Stanford University digitally houses her writings in its initiative of Life in Quarantine. She is on the Editorial Team for Inquiry in Education, a peer-reviewed journal published by National Louis University, Chicago, Illinois. She reviews, edits, writes articles and does academic book reviews and editorials as an editorial member.

She is a bilingual writer and writes in Hindi and English.

She authored several children’s books, including The Rainbow in My Room, The Gift, and The Rebirth of the Demon, and coedited an anthology for children’s poems. Some other books to her credit are Tamam Shud, Poems of Kshitij Mohan, and Tapestry of Women in Indian Mythology. Currently, she is Guest Editing a section on Children’s Special for Setu Bilingual Journal. 

She recently had a solo exhibit of her paintings in Potomac, Maryland. Most of her paintings are in private collections. She is nominated for January 2021 as an Artist of the Month by DCSAACI (DC South Asian Arts Council, Inc.) - A South Asian Cultural Ambassador for the DC Metro area. She is a recipient of The Panorama International Literature Festival Award, 2022, and the Setu Bilingual Journal Award for Excellence, 2022. She has been featured several times in the local journals in the Maryland area.

Some forthcoming projects include:

 
·       Two Children’s Storybooks with Integrated Curriculum Resources for Educators and Parents.
·       A Book of Poems for Children.
·       A Canvas of Colors and Words – a book of my paintings and poems.
·       Several articles, poems, and paintings will be published in anthologies and journals.
 
Meenakshi lives in Maryland, USA. www.meenakshimohan.com

3 comments :

  1. Congratulations Meenakshi and SETU team. A meaningful editorial and a superb collection.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Children's special section of Setu bilingual was in the safe and loving hands of Dr Meenakshi Mohan.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Such an engaging prologue. Congratulations to Seth and the Editors

    ReplyDelete

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