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Young Adult author Meg Rosoff speaks about the importance of imagination

Award-winning Young Adult author Meg Rosoff wants you to know about the importance of imagination. Rosoff, a Harvard-educated, American writer based in London, best known for her novel HOW I LIVE NOW (which won the Guardian Prize, Printz Award, and Branford Boase Award) gave a keynote at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference last week. The topic: Whether or Not Fairy Tales Are Harmful to Children’s Health? The short answer: Decidedly, no. In fact, according to Rosoff, imagination and story-telling should be fostered in children and adults.

Meg Rosoff author of HOW I LIVE NOW at Orange awards reception
Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Rosoff was inspired to write her keynote after reading a new study in THE TIMES OF LONDON by Professor Patricia Ganea of Toronto University in Canada. The study claimed that books that tend to attribute human-like traits to animals “may not only lead to less learning but also influence children’s conceptual knowledge of animals.” The basic take-away being that books with talking animals may be harmful to children.

Rosoff offers a counter view and believes that fairy-tales are not only important for human development but even share a close kinship with science itself. During her keynote, Rosoff warned against forgetting about the importance of imagination. To support her position, Rosoff quoted Albert Einstein who said, “[i]f you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

According to Rosoff, Einstein meant that “even if you’re trying to figure out the origins of the universe, and even if you’re looking at the speed of light and microwaves and listening to the sound of infinite silence and hearing a buzz that might be from the Big Bang, even if you’re trying to find the mysterious Higgs Boson -- the so-called God particle that does something so amazing I endlessly fail to understand it –– even with all that so-called scientific stuff, what you are basically doing is telling a story.” Rosoff further explained, “[i]t is in the nature of humans to create stories,” and encouraged both newbie and established writers at the Conference to go out and “write [their] stor[ies]” because “story has the power to change the world.

For more on Rosoff, make sure to watch the film adaptation of her award-winning book HOW I LIVE NOW and pick up her latest book, PICTURE ME GONE, which was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. To see a lighter side of Rosoff, be sure to check out the above video in which Rosoff participates in our SIX QUESTIONS WITH segment where we ask guests sometimes asinine but always amusing questions.

Founded in 1971 by a group of Los Angeles-based children's writers, SCBWI is a non-profit organization that is one of the largest existing organizations for writers and illustrators. The Summer Conference features top authors, agents, editors, and publishers, providing insider information about the children’s publishing market.

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