Well, I am a little late for Children’s Book Week, but let’s talk about Children’s books anyway!
I like children’s books, and in more than the nostalgic “oh, I really liked this when I was a kid” way. I still read children’s books, and I particularly enjoy young adult novels. YA gets a bad wrap by the uninitiated (and to them I say PICK UP A JOHN GREEN BOOK STAT), and I’m sure there are those who scoff at adults who read children’s books. But I grew up a Harry Potter fan; it seems perfectly normal to me for adults to read books written for kids.
Maurice Sendak was on The Colbert Report a few months ago, and Stephen asked him what he thought of the state of children’s literature, and I believe the word Sendak used was “abysmal.” Now, I appreciate Maurice Sendak. I thank him for Where the Wild Things Are, and I was sad to hear of his passing, but as an adult fan of children’s literature, I was somewhat outraged (which, given that it’s the Report, may have been the point). But children’s literature was wonderful, and it is still wonderful. Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, anything by John Green, anything by David Levithan, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik…I could go on and on. Admittedly, my list veers more towards Young Adult literature, I read more of it, but I devored the Percy Jackson series as eagerly as I dove into The Hunger Games. These books are beautiful stories with wonderful characters, and they challenge the way we see the world. They break our hearts and entice us, just like any good book.
And beyond this, beyond these books just being flat out good, I believe it is an incredibly important genre. It’s important for kids to read. They build vocabulary and comprehension skills. In high school, I remember being told the best thing I could do to prepare for the SAT was to read more. And not only is it good for the kids, getting them to read is good for the publishing industry. If you can capture readers at an early age, you can have them for life. In a very non-scientific study conducted by me using the people I know, most of my friends who love to read as adults loved to read as kids. So if you can create good books that parents want to read with their children, and that children want to read, you’re not just creating a memory for them, and you’re not just helping them learn, you’re actually making an investment for the future.
Finally, I enjoy the challenge that children’s books present. There are a lot of fun things for kids to do, and a lot of them are easier than reading. TV, video games, the bizarre iPad apps that fascinate my younger cousins…these are all competing with books. Reading has never been the most popular thing for a kid to do, but now with so much competition, it’s even harder to get kids to pick up a book. And so the authors and the publishers have to get creative. They have to create a beautiful app for The Tale of Peter Rabbit, they video blog to connect to their readers and hold twitter interviews with classrooms. I love it. I love watching the authors connect with their readers, I love watching them take advantage of technology. I think it’s brilliant! And I think it’s a great way to get people to read. It’s exciting to watch the genre adapt to these new forms of media and entertainment.
So in the end, anyone who laughs at me for reading my kid’s books can keep laughing. They can go back to their Jonathon Safron Foer and their Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, I’ll read those too…just after I’m done reading about wizard school.