Sunday, November 3, 2019

Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell

Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell
Published October 2019 Bloomsbury

Katherine Rundell – Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and prize-winning author of five novels for children – explores how children's books ignite, and can re-ignite, the imagination; how children's fiction, with its unabashed emotion and playfulness, can awaken old hungers and create new perspectives on the world. This delightful and persuasive essay is for adult readers.

As someone who reads pretty much only children's books, for work, and more often than not, pleasure, this book called out to me as soon as I saw it.  I feel that I need to give it to everyone I know, so that they get a further glimpse into why I do what I do.

This essay is broken into the following sections:
  • Why You Should Read Children’s Books
  • A Caveat
  • On reading as a child
  • On how children’s fiction came to be
  • On wild hungers and heroic optimism
  • On children’s fiction today
  • Politics
  • Imagination
  • Hope
  • And where to find them
  • The galvanic kick of children’s books

At the very start of the book Katherine talks of her experiences in the children's section of the public library in Zimbabwe where she spent some of her childhood.  I spent time in Borneo when I was little, and it took me back to the small air conditioned room, that they called a library, in our expat Gymkhana Club.  I don't have any specific memories, other that the fact that it was a cool relief from the oppressive heat and humidity outside.  If I was to guess, I would say my choices were dusty old hardback children's books from England, with Enid Blyton featuring quite predominantly.

And then you get hit with this punch on page 2, a quote from Martin Amis:

’People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children's book, . I say, ”If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book.”’

I know I don’t write children’s books, but I most certainly read them, so it’s most defiantly a case of preaching the the converted with this book, but I still loved it. If I was the type of person who highlighted passages in books, then my highlighter would get a workout in this one.  There are so many ‘Yes’ moments for me, that I can’t possibly go though them, this is one of my favourites though:

Page 5
‘There is of course, I Corinthians 13: ‘Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.’ But the writing we call children’s fiction is not a childish thing: childish things include picking your nose and eating the contents, and tantruming at the failure to get your own way.  The 45th President of America is childish.  Children’s fiction has childhood at it’s heart, which is not the same thing.’

Katherine talks about how we don’t read in one direction, we don’t start with Spot, read children’s fiction then YA then onto adult fiction, where you would never look back...that we don’t keep reading harder and more difficult texts until we die. For those that know anything about me, you would know I mainly read kids books, I would say 90% of my reading is children’s or YA.  I recently read an adult novel (which I will be posting on soon) that was really good, but I couldn't help think that I have read more moving and impactful children’s and YA books on the same subjects.

I am not saying that children’s books are the be all and end all, and in fact Katherine states that she’s not suggesting adults read primarily children’s books (😳). I know I miss out on a lot, not having the time to engage in adult fiction, but I gain so much from what I do read that I don’t feel, like I am missing out.

Here's another fact I found staggering. In the UK, the government does not mandate libraries in schools.  The only institutions where there are required to have a library by law are prisons! 

I have already said that this books was preaching to the converted when it came to me reading it, and I would say the same thing for anyone who has found themselves on this page reading this.  Regardless of where you sit as a reader, I highly recommend you read this gem.  It’s short, sweet and small (it’s only H:15.3cm x W 11.2cm)...There is even an audio version, read by Katherine herself, so you have no excuse not 'read' this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment