Women With Something To Say: Gemma Elwin Harris

Women With Something To Say: Gemma Elwin Harris

Charlotte Prichard, 20 November 2013

It's day ten of Women With Something To Say and today's blog takeover comes courtesy of Faber author Gemma Elwin Harris (and this very handsome dinosaur!) Tatty tip: Gemma's book, Big Questions from Little People is the perfect stocking filler for an inquisitive tot (and you, too!) Ever wondered if Alexander the Great was a fan of frogs or how you fall in love? Yup, this is the book for you. Join Gemma as she wonders why we don't ask questions anymore...

When children first grasp the word ‘Why?’ the floodgates open. Any mum, aunt, granny or godmother will know how it goes. They want to know why we don’t have tails like monkeys, why the moon shines, why we have to be good, why farts are flammable, maybe even why humans exist. Their tiny minds are endlessly curious – some might say relentless.  I often find myself struggling to answer wails of ‘But why?’ And feel guilty resorting to the harried parent’s cop out: Just because! 

Since my son hit the Why phase, I’ve been wondering where my own whys went. When did I stop asking questions? Perhaps during my self-conscious teens when raising a hand in class was deeply uncool. Or in adulthood when ignorance became slightly embarrassing.

As women in the UK we have the freedom to ask any question we choose. We can question any form of authority, question the legal system or the actions of our government. We can question inequality in our own country and campaign against injustices dealt to fellow women abroad. We can send our daughters to school, to raise their hands and ask as many questions as they like. And question why mothers in other parts of the world can’t. 

As an author, the books I’ve compiled were inspired by kids’ questions. I called upon experts to answer hundreds of real questions from primary-school children, in aid of the NSPCC. Scientists, naturalists, historians, philosophers and writers got involved – David Attenborough, Jeanette Winterson, Richard Dawkins, Bettany Hughes, Alice Roberts and Michael Rosen among them. I’ve been thinking about these people at the top of their fields and what unites them. One trait is surely a restless curiosity; the constant presence of why.

From now on I’m going to try and take a cue from my three year old and give my whys, hows and what ifs free reign. Questioning the world around us is more than human instinct, it’s the key to progress, and it keeps us young.

Thanks, Gemma! What's the question on the tip of your tongue? Share it with us in the comments below or tweet them to us using the hashtag #WWSTS!

Don’t forget, we’re giving you 20% off your very own bespoke Speech Bubble Necklace. Whatever it is you want to say, design your personalised piece online now.

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