By Gigi Holman, Adult Services Librarian
I have recently come across a few opinion pieces about how adults shouldn’t read children’s literature. They say it is too easy, that we should leave it for the kids, or one columnist even went as far as to say that “…children’s literature doesn’t have the depth of language and character as literature that is written for grown-ups.” While there might be some truth to this observation, I am here to make the case that there is fantastic children’s literature, and adults should be reading it, too. Now, I am not saying that you should cross every adult book off of your reading list; I am arguing that you can have a healthy balance in your reading by sprinkling a few children’s books every once in a while. So without further ado, here is my list of reasons why you should read children’s literature with some excellent book and author suggestions.
1. Children’s literature provides a fantastic escape from reality. Most children’s authors can weave enticing stories with elements that are silly, funny, playful, historical, and magical. They can take us to a place where we can forget about all of the heavy issues that adulthood brings. For an experience such as this, give Roald Dahl a try. Even he has said that “A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men”.
2. Great stories come in small packages. Picture books can reach a wide audience. The stories, though short, have many layers and can be packed full of meaning. My most recent favorite is this year’s Newbery Award winner, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. This charmingly written story is about a boy and his grandma who, during a bus ride, learn to enjoy the people and sounds around them. Throughout the ride, the boy asks his grandma a series of questions, and each time she replies with an answer that points out the beauty in the everyday world. The ending is sweet and meaningful and reminds us about the joy of giving back to our community.
I also highly recommend The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, whose film version was awarded the best animated short film in the 84th Academy Awards. This imaginative story is a reminder that everyone’s life story matters.
3. Some stories become sweeter over time. Can you recall your favorite book from your childhood? Remember reading Charlotte’s Web, Make Way for Duckling, or the Goosebumps series? Try re-reading them. Sometimes the story can take on a whole new meaning as an adult.
4. The illustrations. There are some beautifully illustrated children’s books. You can get lost in the details of the art in some books. Exploring the Caldecott Award list, which offers awards for excellence in children’s book illustrations, can lead you to a wide variety of techniques in art. A few illustrators that I suggest you explore are Beth Krommes, who is a scratchboard artist; David Wiesner, whose illustrations reveal something new each time you read one of his stories; and Denise Fleming, who uses a technique called pulp painting to create her vibrant and colorful illustrations
5. Children’s literature can fit your schedule. Everyone is in a time crunch. Reading can sometimes be a chore instead of an enjoyable experience, but children’s books tend to be shorter. You have time to read a 200 page novel, right?
6. They help you connect with your kids. If you have young readers in your life, read books along with them. Reading books together can give you topics to share and talk about. And, kids who see adults reading are more likely to become readers themselves. There are so many benefits to reading with your kids.
Everyone can benefit from remembering what things look like from the perspective of a child, and reading children’s books helps us not forget that we were once silly, goofy, and playful too. In the end, no matter what you choose to read, come by the Manhattan Public Library and get lost in a good book.