Some people worry about kids learning to be violent and aggressive through emulating their heroes. Others say it can blur the divide between fantasy and reality. All I have is my own anecdotal evidence. When we were growing up, we played Robin Hood for years, taking particular delight in shooting anything that moved with our bows and arrows, and conducting extremely noisy sword fights. I remember smuggling tomato sauce out of the house, so we could have "real" blood for a be-heading. As far as I know, all of my old playmates are model citizens. (The jury's still out where I'm concerned.)
Teens often make heroes of sports and entertainment figures, but younger kids will make heroes of their parents, or a book or TV character that's caught their fancy. Kids change their heroes as they mature, but they also see themselves as heroes, especially in day dreams. Youngsters love to dress up as a favourite hero, and act out all sorts of fantasies in their games.
Literature is a great way to bring kids to an awareness of truly heroic lives. Not every hero has a cape and underwear outside his clothes. By studying biographies about Ghandi or Nelson Mandela, kids can come to realize that there are many heroes in every day life who portray such characteristics as courage in the face of adversity, or perseverance, or a desire to right injustices in the world. There are picture books about animal heroes Like Hero Cat by Eileen Spinelli, or Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron. Fiction too, has wonderful heroes - read my recent review of a Sandy Fussell Samurai Kids book to find a story where heroic qualities like self-discipline and putting others first are found in child heroes.
Getting kids to create stories about a hero is a wonderful writing activity. To start them off, try The Hero Factory. Here they can design themselves a hero, choosing physical features, costume, accessories and more. When done, they can print or download their hero in a comic book cover format like mine above. If they need some questions to prompt their story, ask them:
- What is your hero's name?
- What special powers does he/she have?
- Does your hero have any weaknesses?
- What might be a problem for your hero?
Do you like my hero picture? It's not every day a Book Chook gets to make herself over! I tried to choose features that echoed my real-life attributes: young, attractive, slender, fit, orange mohawk ... If you too would like a makeover, if you've always dreamed of having super powers, or if your child would like to create her own superhero, check out The Hero Factory.
Book Chook Alert: Read two great posts on books about heroes at Moms Inspire Learning: