Mon, 17 Sep 2001

Local children's books fail to produce critical kids

JAKARTA (JP): Most locally-produced children's books fail to encourage children to be creative and sensitive, or to develop their analytical thinking, an expert has said.

"Children need to have books that can stimulate their creativity, their imagination, and their analytical thinking," Mariono Agus Moeliono, an education expert from the Kuntum Mekar Children's Development Center, said at a workshop on storytelling for children during the Indonesian Book Fair 2001 here on Saturday.

Agus, himself a creative story-teller, said that many children's books tended to indoctrinate kids, for example by offering plots which led the young readers to one particular conclusion, or to follow the same logical order.

"These kind of books do not teach children to be more critical by learning how to draw their own conclusions," he remarked,

He further said that most books did not encourage children to ask questions but instead taught them only how to answer questions.

Agus cited the illustrated children's books that were popular for young children in other countries, such as Japan and the U.S.

These children's books use simple words, and leave room for children to be more imaginative as they can weave their own stories by looking at the pictures, according to Agus.

"Books that offer unusual and illogical stories can also make children more creative. These sort of books can enrich children's minds, teach them to be creative and develop their emotional sensitivity," he said, adding that such books, unfortunately, were the hard-sell here.

He argued that it was not only children's story books that failed to stimulate creative thinking, but also school textbooks.

He said that the prescribed textbooks written under the national curricula had prevented children from expanding their horizons.

Given this situation, Agus said, it was not surprising that many Indonesian children were not creative or imaginative, and lacked emotional sensitivity.

"Children need creative books that can stimulate their imagination," said Agus.

Agus regretted the attitude of parents who tended to offer their children simple books that did not stimulate their thinking abilities for fear that the children would find difficulties reading quality books.

"Never underestimate them. They are smart," Agus said.

Agus also criticized publishers who were competing with each other to publish comic books so as to boost their sales, instead of quality children's books.

"Publishers should help the members of the public to become good readers, and not just consider them as a market for their books," said Agus.

He, however, admitted that publishers often found themselves in a dilemma.

On the one hand, they have the ideal of providing educational information to the public, but at the same time they also have to keep their businesses going.

"What they can do is set aside some of the profit they gain from selling those comic books for the production of quality children's books. Then idealism and profit can go hand in hand," he said. (07)