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In praise of bedtime stories

Posted by Leslie Anderson  April 27, 2009 08:52 AM

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By Cindy Cantrell, Globe Correspondent

Maria Tatar of Cambridge, the John L. Loeb professor of Germanic languages and literatures at Harvard University, said it bothers her when people refer to children who love to read as bookworms living vicariously through stories.

‘‘My mother would always say I had my nose in a book,’’ she recalled. ‘‘She meant it well, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with that image.’’

While teaching a course on children’s literature, Tatar has been impressed by powerful reading experiences recalled by college students. People can be shaped, even changed, by words on a page during their formative years, she said.

In her presentation, ‘‘Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood,’’ Tatar will describe how the stories we hear as children shape our sense of wonder, understanding of good and evil, and realities of adulthood.

She will also explore the evolution of the bedtime story as a cultural norm, the ways in which stories are used as a parental tool, and elements of beauty and horror in children’s books.
Tatar’s author talk and book signing will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Newton Free Library.
For more information, call 617-796-1360.

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