Sometimes I oversimplify things, but I think that the world just might be a better place if we made sure that all children had a box of crayons.
Don't most kids these days own crayons? Sadly, the answer is: No. I substitute teach, and when we're doing the occasional semi-artsy project, I sometimes chat with the kids about what kind of amusements they have at home. Nintendo and Wii? Check. Crayons and paints and pads of plain paper? Not so much. I usually end up giving my little speech about the fact that art supplies are really cheap compared to video games. (You can still buy that glorious box of 64 Crayola crayons for under $5.)
Lest you think me a Luddite, I confess that I have nothing against computer games and video games. (I remember my laundry backing up as I worked my way through Myst some years back, and my iPad is all smudgy from playing Cut the Rope.) But kids need art supplies of their very own at home. They need their own box of crayons, so that they can arrange the colors any way that they want to, peel the paper off, or even break one or two without anyone caring. Today's teachers, God bless 'em, have to cover such a specific curriculum that there just isn't much time left for a lot of artistic freedom and creativity. (I remember being asked, by my child's teacher, to outline in Black Sharpie all of the kids' illustrations in their Young Authors books. I not-so-politely declined.)
"The arts give our young people the power to bring their own voice to the conversation about who they are and how they think." So says illustrator and artist Betsy Streeter, who has a wonderful website called Drooly Dog. Its mission is "to help young people and their grownups develop their unique voice through art." Check it out.
Maybe giving kids a box of crayons and a big, fat pad of paper won't solve all of our problems. But on a day when we're finding out that we have one less villain in the world, I keep wondering whether, when he was a child, anyone gave him a box of crayons of his very own.
This week's drawing was inspired by one of my favorite children's books, The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola. In this autobiographical story, Tomie tells of the impact that a box of crayons and an open-minded art teacher had on his life.(You might remember that I told you last December about my own love affair with Crayola crayons.) This is such a wonderful book!