Children'S Books:Not Just For Children
CHildren's books arren't just for children. Thousands of grown-ups have a secret--they're raiding their kids bookshelves for a good read. Why? Reliving childhood memories, or appreciating good literature, no matter the form.
I have a secret. It's one that only a few select people know, and of those few, even fewer understand. The rest share the secret with me. No, it's not something likely to get any of us on the Jerry Springer show, or written up in the newspaper. But it might annoy our children. But there's a lot of us out there, and we're getting braver. Even if our kids have to wait for their bedtime story.
The secret shame? We still love reading children's literature, years after we've outgrown the target audience. And yes, we're embarrrassed. (Some of us, some of the time.) We raid our children's bookshelves, looking for an old favorite (that we've given them!) or a new intriguing title.
We aren't stupid, nor are we immature. We read "grown-up" books too, pay our mortgages and our taxes. We pass for full-fledged adults, except in those secreted hours when we relive the agony of decision making facing Jo March, or share our heartbreak with Betsy Ray as she struggles to find herself and her true love.
So why do we do it? Well, why does anyone read genre fiction? The whodunnits, the westerns, the romances? Because there is a particular comfort there, in knowing that good will prevail, a genre innocent of the anti-hero. As well, the best of childen's literature shares the same traits that make any literature great--universality, carefully drawn characters, an involving plot. Just because the main characters are usually children doesn't mean the book is any less worthy--and it's one way to get in touch with that inner child that keeps hiding.
And let's not dismiss the nostalgia factor, especially for those of us that frequently turn to well-loved tomes in times of stress. We know that everything is going to turn out all right for the character--after all, we've taken this journey with them before. And perhaps the lesson the character learns is one that we need to be reminded of--whether self-reliance, the importance of hope, or simply that every life (no matter how seemingly idyllic) has its struggles.
A love of children's literature brings us closer to our children as well. We enjoy reading The Little Pokey Puppy over and over again to our toddler, hoping that we are planting the seeds for a life-time enjoyment of literature. And as they get older, we can share their excitement over the adventures of the Three Muskateers and their tears when Beth March dies. In a world where the generation gap is growing wider, it's reassuring to have some common interests. So, when your child begs for the latest Harry Potter book (or any other), read it with him. Discuss how the character handles problems, what can be learned from it. It's a great way to share your values with your child, all without lecturing.