Friday, May 4, 2012

In Praise of Children's Books

The Children's Literature class started on Tuesday!

Yesterday, shimmering through 97 degrees, I shouldered my book bag into the library and started ransacking the children's section. Old friends blinked up at me from long-ago bedtime readings, now mysteriously transported to a new library and my adult life.

Mr. Putter And Tabby Bake The CakeAmelia Bedelia. Nate the Great. Under the Lilacs.

And a few more that I had to surrender at the front desk, because I didn't know about a 15-book limit per card. "I use my husband's card," the librarian told me helpfully, and I agreed that certainly, this would be the best option.

The Pilot read to me Nate the Great last night while I cooked dinner.

A first assignment for the class: write an imaginary speech to a PTA audience, convincing them that reading to children is important.

It's rather tempting just to write four quotes.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. - Albert Einstein.

Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed. - G. K. Chesterton

No book is worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty... - C. S. Lewis

... a children's story which is only enjoyed by children is a bad children's story. - C.S. Lewis

I won't, of course. I'm obliged to put in some textbook jargon about children's cognitive and social development that is enhanced by reading, all just scientific blather that is much more neatly and meaningfully summed up by Messrs. Einstein, Chesterton, and Lewis.

The love I have for children's books is an old, comfortable, time-worn affection. Picking up a children's story and sprawling comfortably on the couch to read it is as enjoyable as eating a favorite meal; meeting the characters to re-live their stories is like reminiscing about old times with friends.
The banter between my brothers and sisters and me is littered with quotes from the stories that wove into our childhoods. Fruitcake is always going to "break a person's toe" (see Mr. Putter and Tabby.) The stories are a dialect of the language that we speak.

If you didn't grow up reading children's books, then don't lose any more time! Start making friends with  Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy immediately. Or Henry Huggins. Or Beezus and Ramona. Or Bilbo Baggins. Or whomever you really want to get to know!

For me the summer promises lots of hot weather, and lots of old friends. Perhaps you might like to join me?

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