The book published by Ediciones Beascoa Cuentos para educar con inteligencia emocional (Stories to educate with emotional intelligence) is an interesting exploration of the essence of children’s stories that combines a fun, simple and practical description of the creative process, with an interesting and excellent focus on the makeup of the minds and emotions of children aged between 6 and 9.
At boolino, we want to recommend this book, which is intentionally set out to imitate a traditional narrative structure – beginning, middle and end – and that’s what it will teach us to create personalized stories.
In the first part, Clara Peñalver describes the basics of her project, explaining that her experience as a writer led to her creating a personal working method which helped her to create imaginatively; the Sealed Room. This method acts as a metaphor for how our brain works and, in order to explain this, she briefly and concisely describes the interests that have served as a theoretical basis for her methodology.
Starting with the distinction that has been drawn between the different forms of intelligence as psychology has evolved, seven in total according to the American psychologist Howard Gardner, rejecting the dated concept of “a single intelligence” and then focusing on the importance that another psychologist, Coleman, has placed on one of them since 1995; emotional intelligence, Peñalver mentions the need to be “horizontally integrated” as people, to learn and have both sides of the brain connected, the rational side and the emotional side, the one that analyzes reality and the one that is capable of creating imaginary worlds that can help us to understand that reality and which, for the matter in hand, can help us to manage the emotions aroused in children by this collision with reality, which they may feel that they don't understand as they grow older.
The visual example of a room allows us to use the floor to represent the rational side and the real event or real emotion that we want to deal with in the story. The ceiling will be the emotional side and it also represents the fictional universe that we will create to manage the emotion or deal with the event that has affected the child. The connection between the two that can be so beneficial for growth is provided by the walls, which represent the corpus callosum, responsible for connecting reality with the story that we want to create, and each of the four walls will represent a function in the story: the supporting character, the plot, the ending.
Throughout this framework, the parents are considered to be front line emotional guides and the author points out that sharing the act of reading a story with children can create and strengthen emotional ties. This is why she describes and classes a range of primary and secondary emotions as the raw ingredients for creating these personalized children’s stories.
Another of Peñalver’s theoretical underpinnings is neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) as a vehicle for communication. NLP means programming the brain itself through language, it would serve as a guide to understand what we are like inside, how we function and, therefore, a guide to improve human relationships and understand others, which includes the children for whom the stories are being written. Clara Peñalver explains that NLP emerged after a behavior pattern was discovered when studying the behavior of a number of professionals who excelled in their fields and that it is based on a model of communication that considers the body and mind to be an inseparable unit that works as a whole.
So, as the author remarks, neuro-linguistic programming is learning to understand and, therefore, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person for whom the story is intended to be able to use the Sealed Room method as a tool for creating stories.
With all of this theoretical background we have before us an example of how to construct a story with the Sealed Room. The ingredients to be used will be the metaphors for change (the hero/heroine’s profile will be similar to that of the child in question, to arouse empathy) and the metaphor for accompaniment (arousing sympathy towards the story by using settings or references that appeal to the child).
Finally, the author uses William Marston’s DISC tool and Jung’s typology to associate models of behavior and emotion with four colors. She recommends using these classifications to identify the people around us with colors, in particular the child for whom we are going to write the story. The colors for each personality will be the basis upon which the characters in the story are created and they can be used as metaphors for accompaniment that will stimulate empathy in the receiver; the child.
So the Sealed Room becomes a tool for creation which parents can use to create personalized stories, for those subjects that their children need to deal with.
It is supposed to be a children's story book and that is partly true, as the book unravels over four stories, each featuring a child of a different color, based on his/her energy – red, green, yellow and blue; the child of action, the understanding child, the happy child and the thinker. Each of the different colors of the little minds is represented in a personalized story.
At the end of Cuentos para educar con inteligencia emocional, a number of conclusions are reached.
A description of how the stories have been constructed. Emotional learning (having emotions is natural), metaphor for accompaniment (profile of a boy or girl with whom the reader identifies), metaphor for change (supporting character who teaches by contrasting ideas).
There then follows a description of all of the emotional shortcomings of each type of personality, the weaknesses of each of the four cases.
A summary of the main basic emotions and the main secondary emotions is included for each type of personality.
Finally, there is a selection of model characters which the parents or budding writers can use to write their personalized children’s stories.
It could not end without including an outline of how the “story factory” works and, in it, Clara Peñalver describes the three machines she uses to construct her stories. The first is the Color Minds Machine, which teaches you how to develop the child’s profile. In the second machine you choose what form of emotional teaching you want to offer them, based on one of the main emotions that we have described or resulting from an actual experience, so this is called the Emotions Machine. Finally, we have the Sealed Room Machine, in which the process of turning reality on its head takes place, turning it into something appealing which can educate the reader or change them.