Children’s Literature – why it matters

The thing is, every now and then, in mainstream media, we see mention of children’s books. They’re usually rather intermittent mentions, reminiscent of birds caught on a pocket of hot air. They spiral fleetingly, gorgeously, temptingly, and then they wheel away. Children’s books don’t get covered in mainstream media, not easily, not comfortably. Julia Donaldson talks about it here. And she’s right, in so many ways.

The other thing is, as the comments on the bottom of that piece show, children’s literature is mis-perceived. Often foolishly so, because to disregard this genre is to disregard work being written for one of the great tribes of our time.

Children are wild, unfathomable creatures. For a long time they don’t talk, they don’t verbalise their feelings. They are the great unknown, the last great tribe of humanity that could, quite easily, turn the world upside down if they wanted to.

And they’re great; wondrous, passionate, funny and smart, being shaped every day that sees them progress through childhood. How can you not see the literature that guides, aids, abets and challenges that progression as being worthy of import?

Everything comes from children’s literature, everything comes from stories. Your words that you write now, the way you look at a teddy bear in a window, the way you suddenly long to fly a kite on a windy hillside, the need to hold somebody tight when you feel sad. It is all part of our humanity, and our humanity is built on stories and storying and the undeniable need to understand who we are. And we do this through words, through questions, through throwing our belief against the world and seeing if it sticks.

We do this through stories. We do this through expressing what we are, who we are and what we want to be. And children’s literature does that, does that and more. It holds our hands through the darknesses and it brings you towards the light. It tells you that things can be okay, that things can be sad, that things can hurt, and it gives you a power through that telling.

It tells you that you are not alone.

How can you even begin to say that that does not matter?

(Edit: I wrote this to explain why I studied children’s literature. It still stands.)

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9 thoughts on “Children’s Literature – why it matters

  1. Mainstream media pick and choose the children’s literature they cover. As we’ve said previously on the blog and on twitter, newspapers will often back a book prize for children’s literature but close the voting to a select few ‘specialists’, as if the whole thing is some rotten exclusive club that only the higher echelons are allowed anywhere near. Bless her, if JD took the time to dig into the book blogs and talk to the lovely book bloggers we’ve ‘met’ and conversed with over the last few years, she’d at least have the satisfaction of knowing that people are passionate enough – even slightly manic – about children’s books, enough to idolise their authors, their illustrators and their publishers. Enough to drag their arses out to author signings and book festivals and events. Enough to embrace the wealth of book-based merchandise and clad / accessorise their little ones in it (including, of course, a huge amount of Julia Donaldson’s beloved creations which are on everything from pants to lunchboxes) and enough to support their libraries and local independent bookstores.

    Bloggers who don’t have any illusion that talking about children’s books, promoting them (for the majority of the time for nought but the odd review copy here and there or in some cases, purely off the back of their library card or their own purchases) is effectively laying down a rock solid foundation for a generation of new readers to build on with their own kids eventually, and grandkids and so on and so forth.

    So, really, let’s be honest, who gives a flying hoot about mainstream media coverage when there’s more than enough passionate folk out there who are willing to talk about children’s books and spread the good word because they bloody well love doing it (and their kids do too), not because they’re on someone’s editorial payroll to do so 🙂

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