The Kiss and the Ghost: Sylvia Ashton-Warner and New Zealand, by Alison Jones and Sue Middleton (Eds)

The Kiss and the Ghost: Sylvia Ashton-Warner and New Zealand, by Alison Jones and Sue Middleton  (Eds) (Education)

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Sylvia Ashton-Warner, novelist and educationist, was extraordinarily famous in the 1960s. She maintained that young children best learn to read and write when they produce their own vocabulary, especially sex words – like ‘kiss’, and fear words – like ‘ghost’. Educators lauded her.

Her autobiographical novels about teaching in remote schools, and being culturally abandoned in a remote country, New Zealand, attained enormous international popularity in both literary and educational circles.

This is the first book to make Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s passionately difficult relationship with New Zealand its central focus. Its contributors argue that, rather than stultifying her, the country she decried produced Sylvia and her work. In addition, infant schooling in New Zealand in the post-war years was relatively radical and progressive, and education officials seemed to welcome Sylvia’s ideas about literacy.

The edited collection includes chapters by Mäori teachers and others who worked with Sylvia, as well as recollections of her son, Elliot Henderson. It reprints her Teaching Scheme that was originally published in New Zealand in the 1950s. And it celebrates her novels as brilliant and angry evocations of life in the wildness of New Zealand.

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