why do grown ups read ‘childrens lit’?

Ok, so i am a Harry Potter fan and i can give any 13 yr old a run for their money in an exclusive Potter quiz. Does that make me a freak??  i notice that a lot of grown ups do read, enjoy and believe  (!!) in books for children/ pre- teens. And i understand. TOTALLY.

i mean, i do appreciate Love in the times of cholera and Of Human Bondage but on a really tired, chilly and lonely weekend i WILL unconsciously reach out for a  Wodehouse or my copy of The Wind in the Willows or Inkheart. And i know  couple of my friends who would do that too.

Is it because ‘it is escapist’ as my dad would put it. After all who wants to read about uncomfortable topics and doomsday stories? One would rather escape to a world which is not exactly all brightly painted and glossy sheened (like the older fairy tales – now THAT would be running away !) but one that has its flaws and a dose of magic and yes, lets not change the bottom line…. They do “live happily ever after” even though it may take them a five book series to do so .

Or is it because, it takes us back in time. It brings back memories of home cooked food, childhood games and when life was comparatively less complicated (umm.. whether it WAS less complicated is another question and another blog post altogether).  The school bully does look so very tame and far away when compared to survival issues and the circulation/ collecting of green bits of paper.

Or is it because, it sticks to well defined stereotypes. Bad is black and white is good. There were no ‘Shades of Grey’ (!). Who doesn’t like the feel good emotion when the  good does triumph in the end. It makes us ever so hopeful and cheers our spirits. Most books stick to this meme and even though we may have a rebel Artemis Fowl but he too by the end of the series manages to look a very very light shade of whitish grey. Actually at times i wonder if we do the right thing by drumming this meme to our kids through books. No wonder the child to young adult journey is so very harsh.

Or is it because,  relationships there are Perrfffect ! Families stay together. There are no uncomfortable issues like divorce and  alternate sexuality. Yes, Dumbledore was gay, but he realised what evil his partner was upto and spent the rest of his life fighting him and saving the world. Surprisingly, they are the only pair with alternate sexuality and one of them has to be all evil (!).

Or is it because, the underdog/ misfit always wins in the end. This may be a very important reason. Don’t we all love it when it happens in books as well as movies, when the boy who lives under the stairs turns out to be a gifted seeker (Harry Potter), when having ADHD is proof of being a demi- god (Percy Jackson) or when Jerry the mouse always always manages to outrun and outwit Tom the cat !

Or is it because, the ‘magic world’ is just around the corner, inside the rabbit hole (Alice…) or up the faraway tree (The Enid Blyton series). It gives us a sense of security and makes us hope that the rainbow is not really far off, we just have to look for signals. Also the perfect world is not as ambiguous as being second to the right and straight on till morning but as Alice, Potter, Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson have shown us, it exists alongside ours like a parallel universe. We just have to find the right hole to jump through and we shall be there. That WOULD be so nice, won’t it !!

Or is it because, we want to know what the kids are reading.  And that gets translated to meaning we would like to know how differently/ similar the next generation thinks and what they read is one way of connecting with them. The connection is of course important for a parent but even for someone who doesn’t have kids, it is important because these 12 year olds will/ may be your employees (or boss?!! eeep !) some day and it is always better to have a sense of connect with generational memes.

Or…. am i reading too much into it ??!!

Maybe i should pick up my copy of Huckleberry Finn again…. and read what Twain says there:

“Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”

.. and so we read because ..the book is there …

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10 Responses to why do grown ups read ‘childrens lit’?

  1. Zen says:

    I’ve always liked reading children’s books for their innocence, or to escape the things that peeve me about the books published these days. I recently read Midnight for Charlie Bone and really enjoyed the simplicity of reading without having to probe the characters or analyze situations too deeply.

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    • oliviabgreen says:

      Absolutely! and when we read- i’ll call it revisit- the characters and stories that one read as a child, we can relate to them in an entirely different manner. For example The Wizard of Oz i read as a child was just a beautiful story, but as an adult i can relate to the Tin Soldier, the Scarecrow, the Lion and their problems 🙂

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Interesting. I love to read children’s and young adults’ fiction too. Or at least I used to. I think we read it because it is an insight into our children’s worlds and of course, because the books are there.

    Also, this new world is by no means perfect. In fact, families are more fragmented, kids much more troubled. Try reading Jacqueline Wilson — all the mums are divorced, all the dads are missing or irresponsible and the kids are trying to cope. My favourite Jacqueline Wilson is one called “The Illustrated Mum”.

    My mouth watered when I saw the children’s books on Dante, Raphael and the other luminaries in Italian museum shops last year. If I could make a trip again, I would save all my money to shop in those places 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Reading Children’s lit as an adult, Yay or Nay? « wrampage

  4. wrampage says:

    I loved your post. I spend a great deal of time reading children’s lit which is partly because I love it but also because I want to be an author for that age group. I think that a lot of adults take for granted the values and complexity found in children’s novels. Just because it’s in the young adult section doesn’t mean it’s worthless or poorly written. Children’s lit is what crafted our young minds when we were that age and it is what will craft the young minds of today and tomorrow. The language may not be like Jane Austin’s but the characters can be just as real if not more so and it is those characters who will be children’s first idols as they go through life. I don’t understand the perceived problem of being or becoming immature by continuing to love and embracing the things we did as a child. If it was meaningful enough to leave an impression on us over so much time, than surely it’s worth it to maintain that love.

    Also, I love all your references to Harry Potter because it’s absolutely my favorite series and I was just at a HP convention a few weeks ago.

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  5. monicles says:

    One of my all-time favorites is Penrod, by Booth Tarkington. My book group’s next selection is Betsy, Tacy and Tibb. According to a book group member, Nora Ephron divided people into two groups: those who’ve read the series, and those who haven’t. I suppose we’ll be venturing into the ‘have done’ group shortly…

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  6. Because in every grown up lies a desire to live forever young!

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  7. Pingback: Let’s Turn a Book into a Movie! | FanFiction Fridays

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