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Kids Room General The Lasting Effect of Children's Books
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The Lasting Effect of Children's Books
Of my earliest memories, my most fond ones are of being read to sleep every night by my parents. Most of the time I always requested Green, Eggs, and Ham, but my catalog landed on most of the great ones. Blueberries for Sal, Where the Wild Things Are, and countless others.

Even now, some thirty years later, I still find myself often returning to these books for inspiration and nostalgia. More than most types of writing, a children’s author is able to evoke the spellbinding innocence and imagination that is fundamental of all art. A children’s book has the distinctive ability to explore reality through magical lenses and teach both children and adults the unique role of fantasy in all our lives. Some of my favorites include Phillip Pullman, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, and of course, Dr. Seuss.

I'm wondering if it's more than just nostalgia for a lost innocence that draws me back to these books for reread before many of the great and more mature classics I've read. Often times it is to these books I look for inspiration in my own artistic endeavors. It is these books that perfectly capture a thought or feeling in its absolute simplest. It is these books that to me are the most uplifting and beautiful, the ones that most fully capture my mind with color and with wonder.

For every 5 books I read, I always either add a new children's one to the list or else go back and re-read an old one. I wonder if anyone else follows a similar reading pattern or else feels similarly to books of a past innocence.

I'm probably just meandering on the thought now because I'm reaching that 5 book point. I wonder what I'll read.   
About a dozen Poppy Ott and Jerry Todd books were in a box in the attic of an old house we moved into when I was about 11 or 12. . . they made a huge impression on me, to the point that I modeled my own diary on them for several years (they were written as recollections from Jerry Todd's personal diary). 
I, too, still go back and read them, or other books from childhood such as Babar. Reading to our kids, and now our grandkids, is a kind of guilty pleasure - I get almost as much out of it as they do. Like getting a kid to "take" you to a kid's movie! It's another way of thinking and perceiving, and very enjoyable.
It's true that many books for children have a kind of innocence, but I think the real appeal is that they're ultimately hopeful. So many novels for adults are downers. I think there's a cultural perception that "great" literature must be sad or dark. (The same is true for movies - you don't often see comedies nominated for best picture, and comic performances rarely win the big awards either.) The best tragic novels are cathartic, but even there you can have too much of a good thing.

Children's books certainly deal with tragedy - often the main character is an orphan, or separated from parents/guardians, which leaves the child exposed to dangers they'd otherwise be protected from. The important thing is that the child faces the challenges and overcomes them. They may be bruised or disillusioned, but they usually learn something that helps them face similar challenges in the future. It's always understood that they will have a future, and there's always a sense that even if things are hard now, they can get better.

Why wouldn't adults enjoy revisiting these books from time to time? We need that kind of optimism!
What a lovely subject, Clark. Reading used to be my favorite past time, I don't remember being read to, rather reading and looking for hours on a book and especially its pictures. Pictures made the whole difference, they absorbed me completely and I could stay for a long time on one page. I was often reading the same stories (the classics: snow white, sleeping beauty, little red riding hood etc.) with different books and it would be like rediscovering them all over again.

Looking back, I actually admire my capacity to be so in love with a story as to read it every day, sometimes several times a day. I wish that I could put the same amount of love and reflection into what I'm reading now. It is the kind of approach I still have when I listen to music. I can listen to the same song over and over again. Today when I read, I finish the book and put it aside to pick up a new one. I feel there is such a huge amount to be read that I don't want to “lose time” by rereading an old one, no matter how much I liked it. The result is short lived infatuations, perhaps not the passionate and all consuming love of my childhood.

I never went back to read my old favorites, I suppose because I don't have children, but also because they live somewhere inside me like a very dear memory that I am almost afraid to disturb. My literary first loves
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Latest Post: December 17, 2010 at 10:35 PM
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