Monday, June 9, 2014

Why Grown-ups Should Read Children's Literature: A Summer Reading Challenge

There is some kind of condition that infects children in a library. Despite the fact that they have been happily browsing in the children’s room just moments before, the second they step foot into the adult section, they magically transform into feral cats. Soon they are crawling underneath the shelves, hissing and clawing at each other, and emitting high-pitched shrieks as they chase each other around the room. If I am not lucky enough to have another adult with me to corral them in the children’s room, my best bet is to quickly scan the nearest shelves: usually the new fiction and non-fiction, grab a few books off the shelf with attractive covers, and run for the check-out before someone is hurt in the process. 

More and more, I find myself forsaking the adult room altogether, and pulling my reading from the middle grade shelves where there is a much smaller chance the children will go feral on me.There is also a much higher chance that I might actually finish one of these books. If you are as sleep-deprived as I am, trying to read in the evening or in bed usually involves dozing off at least once. If I’m lucky, I just drop the book on the floor and not on my face. Children’s books are short (at least most of them) so you can actually finish a book, thus giving you a sense of satisfaction in actually completing something, which is rare when you are a parent of toddlers. 

Of course, when I get that question, "What are you reading?" from a more serious-minded reader, I often hesitate a minute to see if they are going to think I'm silly for loving children's books. I spent years of my life studying great works of literature, tearing books apart and putting them back together, and at the end of it found that I had forgotten how to read for pleasure's sake. It was then that I picked up my roommate's copy of Harry Potter and rediscovered what it is to read for sheer joy and no other reason. There's a reason so many adults were toting around the Harry Potter tomes: beyond being really great storytelling, it reminded us why we wanted to read in the first place: because it's fun.

C. S. Lewis said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”A few years ago, I reread my absolute childhood favorite: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It came at a time when I was dealing with some deep emotional healing, and God used it to really speak to me about my identity. Coming back to a book you read as a child with your adult history and perspective may touch you in new ways that can be quite profound.Sometimes reading a children's book can help you connect with some deep parts of your heart that were more alive as a child or you might discover some long-lost interests and joys you’ve forgotten. You might find a book that shows you new things about hope or grace or forgiveness, topics that children's book writers feel much more freedom to write about than those heart-breakingly brilliant works of literary fiction that win all the awards.

So since summer is coming, and you'll be signing your kids up for the summer reading program at the library, (At least I hope you will be!) I thought you parents and other grown-up readers of my blog might be up for your own Summer Reading Challenge: to read a few works of children's literature  this summer. I will be back tomorrow with a Summer Reading Guide designed especially for grown-ups and organized by genre.

I wish I had some great prizes to give out. I still remember that year in Summer Reading when they were auctioning off the California Raisin doll. I didn't win, but I tried really hard. Brent tells me that his library had coupons to Pizza Hut! But let me know in the comments if you're up for the challenge, and maybe I will come up with something yet!


  1. Hi LeAnna! As an editor, I currently work with heavy stuff all day, and I've found most of my "after school" reading to be children's books of late. I'm up for your challenge! Hope things are going great!

  2. I already read 'The Fault in Our Stars' and enjoyed it shamelessly, so I accept your challenge. :-)