Leonora Buirski, who writes under the pen name Leonora Langley, is a woman of many talents. She is a qualified counsellor, a former international journalist – Leonora was editor of the Hollywood Reporter Magazine and West Coast edition of Elle USA – and she’s also been a teacher. Her most recent position was principal piano tutor at Bennett Memorial School here in Tunbridge Wells.
Now mainly concentrating on writing books, the Tonbridge-based author has recently published a fascinating tome titled ‘Let the Souls of Our Children Sing’ (Giving Voice to Their Feelings and Emotions). In it she says she makes an impassioned plea to parents, educators and carers of the young for greater awareness in nurturing the emotional wellbeing of our children.
Following what has been a hugely uncertain 18 months in their lives, Leonora offers parents and educators new ways of looking at how best we can help children to move on from lockdowns, homeschooling and not having enjoyed the usual freedom they would have had as children had the pandemic not happened.
“In the book I explain how I would like to have been given something similar to accompany the birth of my son,” Leonora says.
“Determined to make what I personally needed available to parents, educators and carers of the young, I decided to write something myself.
“As a teacher, counsellor and former international journalist – when I interviewed a vast array of celebrities and executives in the entertainment industry – I feel I’ve had a lifelong interest in the human condition.
“From the first time I stepped into a classroom of six and seven year olds when I was on my first teaching practice in my 20s, I wanted to give a voice to the young when they sometimes don’t have one.”
In her new book, which Leonora says took a lifetime to write, she makes her plea about nurturing the emotional wellbeing of our children.
“As society moves towards a heightened consciousness of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and stress, I offer a persuasive critique of the present focus on intellectual achievement over sensitivity, to the needs of children as whole integrated beings embracing the physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual.”
In her book Leonora argues that mainstream education desperately needs a new paradigm to replace the emphasis of cognition and logic.
“This you see can be counted and measured over the enrichment of children’s souls, which I believe is beyond measure.”
In the synopsis of the book, Leonora asks the question: “Are we failing our children by not being receptive and responsive enough to their feelings and emotions?”
Encompassing the obligations of parents as well as the challenges of teaching, she marshals her long years of experience as a teacher in a wide range of settings to argue that the competitive, mechanical and sedentary nature of most mainstream schooling – based on a 19th-century model – is of limited use to the majority of young people today.
“I believe that what education needs is a complete transformation in emphasis and that we need to move away from the notion that education and teaching are industrial processes that have to be imposed on pupils and realise that children learn not just by what they are told about something but also how they feel about it.”
Leonora says that what needs to be integral to all learning is the development of internal resources that children can draw upon in times of inevitable adversity and challenge.
“It is only by nurturing radical self-compassion and love in the young that they will grow in the knowledge that self-belief and self-respect are not dependent on external validation, often gained from their present addiction to social media, which is fleeting, but on developing inner validation, where they accept and value their own internal experience, thoughts and feelings which can, hopefully, sustain them over a lifetime.”
Leonora’s solution is based on wisdom dating back to Ancient Greece about what children need from their education and how that can best be achieved. She believes the main goal of education is self-awareness and thus awareness of others, and the arts – which engage the body, the emotions and the spirit as well as the mind – are the most holistic way of achieving it.
“At a time when arts education is seen as an increasingly marginal activity in mainstream schooling, I argue that it is only by putting children’s innate creativity and curiosity at the heart of our education mission that we can hope to re-engage the vast number of children switched off from the current system and avoid the poverty of imagination and the absence of hope which are the root causes of so many contemporary ills.”
Leonora finishes by saying she views the principal message of her book – which was recently described by a book reviewer of a leading natural health provider as, ‘a sane and wonderful tour de force in the field of children’s education and wellbeing’ – as absolutely fundamental to the wellbeing of our present society as well as future generations.
If you’ve read it, we at the Times would love to know what you think…
Let the Souls of Our Children Sing (Giving Voice to Their Feelings and Emotions) is available as a paperback book at £8.99 from Amazon, Waterstones and Austin Macauley and also an e-book at £3.50. austinmacauley.com