Why All Adults Should Read Children’s Books

By Shevani Thalia

Someone once told me that reading comics and children books has degenerating effects on an individual's intellect. This person said it directly to my face in a mocking tone while I was reading Case Closed –a Japanese comic book that made me love crime series, thriller movies and detective stories. This person said that “comics are for kids”, and “reading children’s books and comic books will not bring forth any good.”

I was shocked at that time. I tried not to burst out in laughter. Firstly, what this person said was totally unreasonable. Secondly, this person addressed comic books as children’s books. Thirdly, as far as I know, comic books and children books have nothing to do with intellectual degeneration.

Just like this person, some people still assume that comics and children books (picture books or children’s novels) mostly depict shallow subjects. We can’t blame them for having that kind of assumption. I somewhat agree that some of children’s books still put their focus on happy thoughts, sugars, butterflies, and everything nice and sweet –while the world out there is actually pretty bitter and full of choking surprises.

But I keep on reading children books because, just like what Dr. Louise Joy, a Cambridge University academic, as quoted in The Independent, it is a “symbolic retreat from the disappointment of reality.”

As an adult, I read children’s books to escape from the bitterness of modern life.

It is not essentially wrong. Dr. Louise Joy also stated that classic children books that we love, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach “…offer a world where self-consciousness is overthrown and relationships are straightforward.” She also added that “relationships in the real adult world are often fraught by miscommunication and the impossibility of understanding one another properly.” She also said that it also applies to other favorite titles of modern children’s books.

I am not a researcher, but I believe that the escapism from the ‘real adult world’ could also be found from an assortment of books, which include illustrated books for children or comic books.

Yes, children’s books are largely for entertainment purposes. Maybe, for the younger children, these books are made for them as some nice, soft cereals before they start “chewing on” harder books. But, sometimes people forget how books that could change their perspective in life could essentially come from anywhere.

When I was a kid, my father gave my sister and I some copies of Enid Blyton’s “The Famous Five” series. The adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog have given us a knowledge that after tiring homework and endless assignment, holidays will come and we will have other new adventures waiting for us, as long as we endure the school days well.

Another family’s friend gave us some copies of other favorite books written by Enid Blyton. One of them is “House At The Corner” . This is one of the book that makes me feel that “you could feel okay, as long as you write down your feelings into stories just like Lizzie, the bookish daughter of the family did”. The same person also let us read her copy of Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” –the book that makes me feel that I could travel anywhere just by reading a book, and also to treat people nicely or I will end up like Miss Trunchbull from the book.

Children’s books, even when they don’t tell magical stories and are instead set in modern life, have given me a lot of valuable lessons.

Several months ago, I read a children’s book that has since become one of the most impressive books I’ve read. This book becomes one from a list of book titles that I engraved in my mind as: a book that has changed my perspective and made me face this life as an adult. The title of the book is “The Lion and The Bird”, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc, a graphic designer and an illustrator. “The Lion and The Bird” was published by Enchanted Lion, who also published a lot engaging children’s books.

It tells a story about a lion who lived alone and became a farmer for living. On a day before the arrival of winter, the lion discovers a wounded bird who failed to migrate with the rest. In the ensuing days, the lion tended to the bird’s wounds and took care of it. They ate together, played together over the fields covered with snow. In the end they spent the whole winter together, side by side.

Naturally the bird couldn't stay at the lion’s place forever. When spring comes, it must take flight. When the lion remarked how well he acknowledged the bitter fact that the bird must leave, we could see the lion’s painful look. Beneath that painful look –the look of knowing that something that he cared for dearly was about to leave him, the lion smiled subtly. The lion knew, as the book narrated, “…and so it goes. Sometimes life is like that.”

As a young twenty something, I had to deal with a lot of farewells. When I read that book, I remembered all the farewells I have encountered in my life. Either it is a forever-kind-of-farewell, or see-you-soon-farewell, farewells make me suffocated. Farewells remind me about hope that was lost, love that was buried, and hearts that were broken.

In the book, the lion kept on waiting and got all busy by reading books and rowing at the lake, but he clearly missed his little friend, the bird who has since migrated.

It’s like a reflection of my life right now, and I assume everyone’s life, that we are hopefully waiting for something that we have lost to return to us in the future.

The lion is quite lucky because the bird will return next winter, exactly like when they first met. I know that somewhere in the future, all of things that I have yearned for a long time to come back will come back to me one day. In the meantime, I will face my life just like an adult, and keep myself busy without losing my hopes.

For me, it’s amazing that there is a children’s book that could teach children how to deal with difficult, hard-to-face emotions, like loss and grief. Since I read the review about that book, I bought the book and searched for other children’s books that masterfully articulated deep, difficult feelings that everyone –including children and adults, could face in everyday life.

I truly believe that the joy of reading could come from any book. There are some adults out there who may be exceptionally selective about the range of titles they read. These folks tend to forget that generalizations about a particular book’s depth/scope could actually do them a great disservice since they forgo its potential value by outright dismissing it.

Back to the remarks from the friend that I mentioned earlier, I did not laugh in front of this person. It’s just not what adults do. I simply kept on reading my comic book.

This article first appeared on Shevani Thalia's Thought Catalog page. It is reproduced with permission.


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