1991 – Kieran Egan

“Teachers of young children need to be, above all, storytellers.”

That idea, espoused in Kieran Egan’s book, “Primary Understanding: Education in Early Childhood,” has earned the Canadian author the 1991 award.

Kieran Egan, a professor of education at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, identifies four sequential stages of human understanding: the Mythic, the Romantic, the Philosophic and the Ironic.

He advocates tailoring early learning to the Mythic stage, addressing the sense of fantasy, awe, magic, natural justice and appreciation of the struggle between good and evil that is usually neglected in pre-school and early primary school- age children. By building curriculum on this fascination, teachers can stimulate young children to become more alert, sensitive, creative and knowledgeable.

Egan, who has been on the Simon Fraser faculty since 1972, has focused much of his work on the education of children.

Judges said Egan’s insights, if widely circulated, “could profoundly affect the work of curriculum developers and teacher educators in many countries.”