I finished reading Matilda this week. It was my first Roald Dahl book. Ever. Shocking, right? You’ll have to blame my parents. Although I was excited about buying the Roald Dahl Collection – I had been coveting it for over a year – I was worried, too. What if I was simply too old to enjoy them? What if I wasn’t able to appreciate the stories as much as I would if I were a child? But I adored it. I loved the tone of the story, the wit and Matilda’s intelligence and sincerity. As today is Roald Dahl Day, I thought it was apt to talk about why you’re probably never too old to read children’s books.
You may miss out on something brilliant.
And you don’t want that to happen now, do you? I know that it’s impossible, unfortunately, to read absolutely every book in the world, but as Henry David Thoreau says, read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all. Don’t worry if one of them just happens to be a children’s book. Don’t miss out.
They’re not as light as you think.
You often see articles pop up, talking about how dark and gloomy young adult fiction is, or how they’re too ‘adult’ for children, or how adults should read adult books, but have they even read a children’s book? Miss Trunchbull is even more terrifying in the book than in the movie adaptation (she used to hold young Miss Honey’s head under bath water, for a start!). Yes, dystopian societies are dark, but so is a story about a woman who locks children in small spaces peppered with broken glass. Eight Keys and Anthem for Jackson Dawes are both terribly sad, but tell stories that need to be told. Sadly, children sometimes do go through pretty tragic circumstances and this needs to be acknowledged in literature.
You may interpret books you read as a child differently – and that’s a good thing.
I started to re-read Girls at St Clare’s a few years ago and I listened to the Malory Towers audiobook only last year. It was a different experience, but a no less enjoyable one. I looked at them in a different way than I did when I was six years old. I noticed the focus on being intelligent, sporty and plain-looking whereas now, you wouldn’t be snubbed by other pupils for not bothering to do your schoolwork! Like when re-reading any other book, you’ll notice things you hadn’t noticed before. I know I probably wouldn’t have understood the literary references in Constable & Toop if I had read it as a child.
You may ENJOY them!
It really is that simple. I do not know anyone who enjoys Harry Potter less than they did ten years ago. I read Anne of Green Gables last year and it ended up becoming one of my favourite novels. I dare you all not to be enchanted by young Anne Shirley! Children’s books are wonderful, often with as well-developed characters and well-written storylines as adult fiction, and I don’t think we read enough of them. I love the adventure and the wit and the sort of terrors that only young children seem to be able to conjure up.
It’s fun to be nostalgic.
Milly-Molly-Mandy was one of my favourite books as a young child and I cannot wait to pick it up and enjoy it all over again. I really wanted to live in an attic and be able to purchase a chick for a penny. Judging by the amount of 90s Tumblrs I’ve seen, people love nostalgia. They love to talk about the TV shows they grew up with, the games they used to play, the food they used to eat – so why not dust off the children’s books you grew up with and experience them all over again? It is fun to re-read an old favourite and remember what you were doing the first time you read the book, what made you pick it up in the bookstore, or which friends you shared it with. I remember my Dad not believing that I read The Adventures of Mr. Pink-Whistle in one sitting.
It’s a luxury to read a book in a day.
It’s a terrible experience (all right, I’m exaggerating) to be torn from a story you’re enjoying, but you often can read a children’s book in one sitting. It may be your only chance to become fully absorbed in a story, from start to finish, and not have to stop to go to work, or write an essay, or do the laundry.
Because they often have stunning illustrations.
All right, maybe it’s just me, but I absolutely love it when books have illustrations, and a lot of young children’s books do. Matilda, A Monster Calls, Milly-Molly-Mandy, A Series of Unfortunate Events… and thousands more were all made even better by their illustrators. And what adult cannot appreciate Oliver Jeffers?
It’s never too late to catch up!
I thought I was quite a bookish child until I started book blogging and realised that I hadn’t read enough. I’d not read books like The Little Prince or The Giver (and as I said, Matilda) as a child, so I thought I had better catch up. Go on, you can do it!
You’re never too old to read any book.
From picture books to middle grade to young adult to adult and beyond. I like to think I’ll give anything a shot, but if you decide a book is probably not for you, don’t let it be purely because of the age it was intended for. Age does not to define who you are and there’s no right way to be an adult. Read children’s books, eat ice lollies, play in the sand.
I’m in my early 20s and so I suppose that these reasons may change a little as I grow older, but I hope I can continue to seek enjoyment from children’s literature. I chose not to include practical reasons, such as ‘read them because you’re a librarian/parent/teacher/children’s publisher’ or ‘you ought to know what your children are reading’, because I wanted these to be personal. And you don’t have to justify the fact that you enjoy children’s stories.
Right, I’m off to read the rest of my Roald Dahl box set…
Why do you enjoy children’s books?