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Inventing Imaginary Worlds


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Table of Contents

List of Figures Introduction The Story of Worldplay Acknowledgments Part One: Discovering Worldplay Where It Grows Chapter 1: Hidden Worlds of Play: A Journey Through the Land of Kar Chapter 2: Searching for Paracosms: How One Man Found the Imaginary Worlds of Childhood Chapter 3: Memory Counts: MacArthur Fellows and College Students Recall Childhood Play Part Two: Exploring the Gardens of Make-Believe Chapter 4: Pretense and Place: The Poetics of Play in Middle Childhood Chapter 5: Imaginary Countries and Gifted Play: First Investigations of 'Creative IQ' Chapter 6: A Learning Laboratory in Creative Practice: Plumbing the Plausible Imagination Part Three: Grafting Worldplay to Adult Work Chapter 7: The Maturation of Creative Imagination: Robert Louis Stevenson as Mentor Chapter 8: Worldplay at Work: MacArthur Fellows Straddle a Creative Divide Chapter 9: The Worldplay Avocation-Vocation: Case Studies in Creative Polymathy Part 4: Sowing the Seeds of Worldplay Chapter 10: Imaginary World Invention Goes to School: An Argument for Playful Learning Chapter 11: Worldplay the Computer Way: Children and Youth Reveal Their Lived Experience Chapter 12: The Creative Capital of Make-Believe: How to Support Children Playing at Their Best Conclusion. Wither the Worldplay Impulse? Appendix. A Childhood Worldplay List Endnotes Bibliography

About the Author

Michele Root-Bernstein is an historian, a haiku poet, an independent scholar in creativity studies affiliated with Michigan State University and a teaching artist associated with the John F. Kennedy Center. Co-author of the book, Sparks of Genius, The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People, she researches, lectures, workshops, writes and blogs on the practices and processes of creative imagination in all walks of life.


Did you create an imaginary world when you were a child or does your child have a secret parallel world with strange and wonderful creatures that speak a made-up language? This is the fascinating topic of Michelle Root-Bernstein's new book, Inventing Imaginary Worlds. . . .The topic of imaginary worlds has not been well researched or documented, and Michele presents a very comprehensive, engaging and authentic account of one of the most impressive, yet elusive, aspects of childhood imagination-the spontaneous creation of make-believe worlds. Inventing Imaginary World is a fun read and is both scholarly and accessible. Root-Bernstein does a wonderful job of bringing you into the imaginary play spaces of famous writers, poets and scholars including Emily Bronte (and her sisters), C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. . . .[T]his book has something for almost everyone-teachers, parents, researchers and anyone interested in creative thinking, playful learning and imagination. At times you will feel like you are reading fiction because the detailed descriptions of make-believe worlds is captivating, but always grounded in research and a thorough examination of this fascinating element of children's creative capacity. * Center for Childhood Creativity *
Our secret parallel worlds are fascinating and revealing, and few world-players know who else does "it", and how common it is. Or isn't. Thanks to Michele Root-Bernstein the topic has been made public. It's a fascinating subject for world-players of all sorts. -- Deborah Meier, author of In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization and Bridging Differences blog at Education Week
This book is really fun to read. Michele Root-Bernstein provides us with a window into the elaborate imaginary worlds of children who later became exceptional creators; some of them even become MacArthur genius grant recipients. Reading the details of these imaginary worlds is simply fascinating; these children have created strange and wonderful alternative realities, almost like those you would find in a science fiction story. The powerful message of this book is that all children are capable of engaging in creative imagination and exploration. Every parent, and every playful and creative adult, will enjoy this scholarly and well-written book. -- Keith Sawyer, author of "Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity and Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration," Morgan Distinguished Professor in Educational Innovations, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
This book will make you a believer in the importance of make-believe, of making play more play-full. The subject is seductive; the worlds, enchanting. I learned a lot and I yearned a lot. Writers like Tolkien and C.E. Lewis were not the only ones who imagined whole worlds. Michelle's stories about sculptors and scientists made me wish that I also had imagined imaginary-worlds. (Instead, I drew). I worried too. Can our children, immersed in already-imagined worlds (computer games), still imagine? Michelle consoled me. All is not lost. All worlds are not ready-made. A child you know could be imagining one right now. If you know a child, an imaginative child, you need to read this book. -- Patricia D. Stokes, Ph.D. author of "Creativity from Constraints: The Psychology of Breakthrough"
In this scholarly and accessible book, Michelle Root-Bernstein presents a powerful case for the importance of pretend play in childhood as it paves the way for the development of social, cognitive, and emotional skills. The author combines excellent research along with numerous examples of persons in literary and scientific fields who were involved "in the private country of the mind" as children. Without opportunities for pretend play, Root-Bernstein claims we will shrink our pool of creative adults. -- Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Child Study, Yale University, and Author of Make-Believe: Games and Activities for Imagi, Jerome L. Singer, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Child Study, Yale University, and Author of Make-Believe: Games and Activities for Imaginative Play;...
Showing the great value of having dual gifts when trying to understand great creativity, Michelle Root-Bernstein, an artist and a creativity scholar, opens up a whole new area of creativity study, which we may have suspected but now have a rich, detailed, and compelling case for its importance. This work will be a standard in the field for years to come. -- David Henry Feldman, Ph.D., professor and chair, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development, Tufts University
This volume captures some of the most interesting research available on the topic of creative cognition. Root-Bernstein's descriptions of polymaths and imaginary worlds are engaging, and the practical implications numerous. Root-Bernstein is, for example, quite clear about the role of play in learning, and the impact of school and computers. You will finish reading this book and understand that make believe is indeed a form of "creative capital." -- Mark Runco, Ph.D., Torrance Professor of Creativity Studies, University of Georgia, Athens, editor, Creativity Research Journal
Michele Root-Berstein's book is wonderful in two ways. It takes you into the private, imaginary worlds of childhood and it relates playful childhood invention to adult creativity. This is fun and it is also important - just like the secret places it explores. -- Desmond Morris, author of "The Naked Ape," zoologist and visual artist
Inventing Imaginary Worlds is a serious book that's a delight to read, an in-depth exploration of the wonder and importance of a particular type of childhood play: the creation of imaginary lands. The author convincingly places worldplay at the root of all kinds of adult creativity, and issues a gentle warning that the society that values creativity in adulthood will nurture it in childhood. -- Daniel H. Pink, author of "Drive" and "A Whole New Mind"
I was delighted when I heard that Michele Root-Bernstein had written a book on imaginary worlds for two reasons. First, I believe that her book with Robert Root-Bernstein, Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People is a wonderful resource and guide for people seeking to increase creative thinking. I know her work to be intellectually honest yet accessible. Second, I believe that the topic of imaginary worlds has not been well researched and documented, so I was excited to think that a respected researcher was writing about this phenomenon. I was not disappointed. Inventing Imaginary Worlds, from Childhood to Adult Creativity Across the Arts and Sciences is engaging, authentic, and innovative. It is an important work that anyone interested in creativity, imagination, and the development of creative children should read and refer to regularly. -- Bonnie Cramond, Ph.D., director, Torrance Center for Creativity & Talent Development, professor, Department of Educational Psychology, The University of Georgia
More important than great cities in history seem the great places of our imaginations -- the invented worlds where we spend years enacting rich, pretend lives; lives sporting fantastical creatures, improbable feats, and complex relationships in need of attention. Ten years ago, the Root-Bernsteins exposed the influential creative and artistic pasts great scientists. In Inventing Imaginary Worlds, Michele Root-Bernstein performs even more magical surgery -- extracting the stories of artists, writers, scientists, youth, and even MacArthur Fellows who recount their own intricate imaginary and formative worlds. We're talking of Ejuxria (Coleridge), and Barge World (Alice Rivlin), and the Kingdom of King Squirrel (Nietzche), and the Kingdom of Back (Mozart). Root-Bernstein makes a sweeping and entertaining case that identity formation is, at heart, a creative process. -- James S. Catterall, professor emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles, director, Centers for Research on Creativity, Los Angeles/London U.K.
This book provides a beautifully written and comprehensive account of one of the most impressive feats of childhood imagination- the spontaneous creation of entire fictional worlds. Michele Root-Bernstein covers historical examples, the ground-breaking research of Robert Silvey and his colleagues, her own empirical studies, and her naturalistic observations of her children. The literature on imaginary worlds is meticulously researched, carefully interpreted, and presented in all its fascinating detail. This is the authoritative volume on the subject and will be essential reading for anyone interested in the development of imagination. -- Marjorie Taylor, professor of psychology, University of Oregon, Author of "Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them," editor of the Oxford Handbook of the Development of Imagination

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