“If you give children a vocabulary that’s large enough and complex enough to express their emotions and their ideas, you give them access to complex feelings and emotions in themselves. So that if you talk to a teenager and all they can say about how they feel is BAD, and they haven’t got, you know, a larger vocabulary for lonely, abused, insecure, frightened…I mean there’s this huge panoply which…I remember when my daughter was just telling me that she just felt bad, I bought her a thesaurus. I said, “Look up, is it sort of over lonely, or is it insecure…and look up under lonely, you’ll find two hundred words for lonely. Which one?” But what that does is that it makes you feel that there’s this huge complexity of emotions and there are words for all of them. If you want children to feel less frustrated and less disenfranchised and less unable to even feel comfortable with their own emotions, you’ll have to give them a vocabulary that’s as complicated as their inner lives. And one of the things we see in children is this incredibly reduced capacity for reporting their inner lives to the exterior world. One of the things is just teaching them poems, just teaching them to memorize poems in school, they don’t have to interpret them, if they just internalize the language of the poem, the complexity of the emotion in the poems…”
-Jorie Graham, in a conversation