Today’s post won’t be a commentary of a movie or book, but I did want to discuss something that was brought to my attention twice in the last 18 hours.
On Mondays, I teach a General Literature class for high school students at the school I graduated from. Last week, we started reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis. In class on Monday, I had several students, being the big bad freshman that they are, ask why the book had been assigned if it was a “child’s book”.
Today, I was reading a blog post, and the author jogged my thoughts a bit about the same question. She cites JK Rowling, among others, as an inspiration for her writing: Rowling is also a huge inspiration in my own writing. But Harry Potter is geared for children, right?
Could you imagine a world where we don’t read children’s books as adults? My favorite books are children’s series: I literally have a separate shelf for The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter series. I do have other books that are high on my rankings, but those two series have impacted me the most as a person and as I’ve grown up. Reading is one of the best ways to grow as a person and become more mature: I know I would be a different person if I hadn’t read half of the books that I’ve read – including children’s books.
This was the reason I gave my students for why we were studying Dawn Treader:
In writing a children’s book, you have to be able to take a complex life theme and put it into words that are easy to understand, and also enjoyable to read. It’s simple to wax lyrical about a subject, but minimizing it to a concise discussion or story is very, very difficult.
To continue with the Harry Potter example, take a look at Severus Snape. I don’t think there is a character that has taught me more about everlasting love. You could read a thousand Harlequin novels, but you’ll be hard pressed to find something as moving as the love Snape had for Lily. And this was from a children’s book, might I remind you.
In the Dawn Treader, there are a number of themes that are woven into a fantasy setting and characters. Reepicheep demonstrates courage and loyalty, no matter the cost or danger. Greed is another concept presented through Eustace and the dragon’s gold. When Lucy is in the wizard’s house, she nearly recites the spell of Infallible Beauty. Take a moment and think: external beauty is one of the most prevalent topics in our society, as well as the struggle in many men and women to attain the standard that is set by the world. Plastic surgery, fad diets: we’ll do anything to smooth out wrinkles or lose a few extra pounds.
Again: “Readers live a thousand lives before they die.” Reading, be it a children’s book or an adult novel, teaches us lessons and leaves impressions on us that last for a lifetime, whether we realize it or not.
What is your favorite children’s book? Do you still read novels and series geared for younger readers? Has there been a book that you’ve read over several years and learned something different each time?