What more needs saying about imagination?



    Search for more papers by this author
    • MARGARET MEEK SPENCER has an international reputation in the fields of children's literature and literacy. Over more than 40 years she has worked with significant effect to promote a wider recognition of the importance of literature of quality for children and of the benefits that can accrue from its serious study. For this she is respected and honoured by authors, publishers, librarians, parents, teachers, and academics.

      Her broad conception of literature embraces not only picture books, stories, novels, and poetry but also information texts and electronic texts. In all these categories Spencer has viewed texts intended for children not as a lesser branch of adult literature but as part of the larger enterprise of literature for all. She has used the same critical apparatus to examine it, with illuminating results. Her work is animated by a constant concern to offer children texts rich in meaning, realised through images and words that delight and challenge young readers.

      Spencer has helped teachers and others who work with children to observe with a more intelligent and perceptive eye how children make sense of texts and the ways in which they weave them together with their other experiences of life. In this way she has been a major influence on the thinking and the practice of many teachers and academics working in education and has significantly deepened our conception of literacy. Through her writing and speeches she has markedly affected the education of very many children, throughout and beyond the English-speaking world. She has substantially enriched the understanding of teachers about what it is to be literate and how the very youngest children can be challenged and nourished by their encounters with texts.

      The many books by Spencer on different aspects of literature for children and on literacy are memorable for their conceptual subtlety, breadth of reference and scholarly attention to detail. Several of these texts have become classics of their genres (e.g., Meek, 1993, 1998a, 1998b). Indeed, through her writing Spencer has raised the level of understanding of many thousands of parents, teachers, and academics about the role texts play in children's success as readers and writers.


This paper, delivered as a keynote address to the 19th World Congress in Reading, explains why the author chooses imagination as a core issue in children's learning to read and write. Drawing on literature, history, psychology, and other disciplines, the author explores how imagination grows and develops and contributes to comprehension and learning. (Please cite this paper as Spencer, M.M. (2002, July 29). What more needs saying about imagination? Paper presented at the 19th International Reading Association World Congress on Reading, Edinburgh, Scotland.)