Exploring children's literature
Sometimes even a complex mind could do with a simple story.
I was deeply captivated by books as a child. I remember the sense of pride and excitement that I felt after finishing Little House in the Big Woods, my first chapter book. Laura Ingalls’ novel made me deeply fascinated with the simplicity and beauty of pioneer life and inspired me to learn more about the past.
There is a beauty in children’s literature that sets it apart from all other mediums of narrative. It caters to children’s imaginative minds, challenging them to take adventures on their own, be creative, to learn about new time periods, to inquire and to ask questions. Furthermore, children’s literature requires a child’s complete attention and cannot be engaged in passively, which has a profound effect on childhood development. Stories that have stayed with me for years include Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden, which examines the healing that comes from being reconciled to nature and to community, and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, which allowed me to ask deeper questions about my faith.
While children’s television programing fails to truly expose children to serious issues, children’s literature is extremely effective in helping a child examine the world in a new way. One of the most profound children’s books that I have ever read is The Giver by Lois Lowry. The story examines a community that has sought to eradicate pain by eliminating diversity and close family relationships and by making life extremely structured. However, young Jonas, who is assigned to carry memories of the past, discovers that by eliminating pain, the community has also eliminated love and faith, the beautiful things that give life meaning and purpose. Although I found the novel deeply eerie as a nine-year-old, it also caused me to think about the things that I most value and pursue.
Last year, I began meeting with my friend Sarah to talk about children’s literature and to develop my own stories. My story was about an uptight little girl sailing across the world on a sea of snow to find a cure for her frozen village. In many ways, I began to see myself in my character and grow with her. Writing became a form of escapism, allowing me to forget about school for a while and take my own adventures. I sought to rediscover the excitement of story, be the hero and to gain a better understanding of myself in the process.
I think that great children’s authors have mastered the ability to illustrate beauty in the simplest of forms. This sets their work apart from adult literature and often makes it more profound. Children’s literature has always challenged me to see my life as part of a bigger picture. It has also inspired me to develop a more child-like faith of awe and of reverence for God. For this reason, I will continue to read children’s literature and perhaps even come up with more stories of my own.