Saturday, February 11, 2006

What do I want out of Children's Literature?

In pondering about children's literature this week I’ve decided to write on what I want out of the books my daughters read. Here are a few goals:

1) I look for books that my daughters will want to read. As they transition from non-readers to readers, I want them to be exposed to books that they won't put down. Reading is not a passive activity; there are a lot of brain cells involved in transforming some black lines on a page to thoughts and ideas. This is especially when children are first learning to read. It helps to have a lot of practice, so I want my children to read a lot. One of the major requirements I have for children's literature is that my daughters will want to read it.

2) I also want books that teach my daughters more about the world. This doesn't have to be boring page after page of dry data. My daughters have enjoyed books like the Anne of Green Gable series, or the Horatio Alger stories. These are primarily stories, but the background and setting teach in a subtle way what life was like a hundred years ago. My daughters have also enjoyed the Black Stallion series; my daughters have learned some about the world of horse racing. I look for books with a variety of settings so our young readers learn more about the world.

3) It is very important to me that the books be moral. My children will be happier if they learn to be honest, work hard, and so on. They will have better friends if people trust them. They'll have better jobs if they can stay focused and get the work done. I like books that reinforce good character traits.

What traits do you look for in children's literature? Do you like the above goals? Are there any that you would change? Are there additional traits?


Anonymous said...

Lasting, timeless themes...the kind of book that a child will love and, when grown, will be excited to share with their children. Spongebob does not do that.

Books that, while accessible to children, challenge as they engage. Books where the writing itself can carry the reader to the next page...that sows the seeds for a love of language.

Excellent writing can occur with simple style, highlighting the story. It should not be a simple listing of events, or rely on high interest topics alone to maintain sales.

In short, children's literature should be just that, true literature. All the elements that make you want to read and re-read a book, share it with friends and buy a copy for your own bookshelf should be present. Literature engages, challenges and provokes. It leaves you with a desire to learn more, read more and act.

Carol said...

I agree with your points. Quality children's literature not only tells a good story, but it makes the reader think beyond the obvious. It engages both their hearts and their minds.