Children’s books have not yet lost their appeal since the invention of the printing press. We were able to read children’s books in our childhood and most of us might have experienced being read a story from our favorite children’s book by our parents. Even the young children of today still find enjoyment in reading children’s books. Now that we have grown up and advanced in age, are the children’s books, especially those that we read as children, not for us anymore? Actually, no. Children’s books are not exclusively for children only. There many lessons and morals of the stories in children’s books that still very much apply to our adult lives and grown up world.
Historically, children’s books were intended for both adults and children as early storytellers did not differentiate a child from an adult and both were considered as not greatly different. It was late in the 17th century that the concept of childhood began to emerge in Europe. With the identification of children as a separate age group and childhood as a different learning and life stage from adults, the need for an age-appropriate reading material became a matter of importance. Thus, the genre of children’s literature was created to cater the needs of the young and developing minds of children.
The stories that were meant for both adults and children were revised to have a “child-friendly” version. The same themes, lessons and morals were incorporated but the stories, characters and situations were changed to be easily relatable and acceptable for children. The darker tones and themes were toned down to more effectively convey the valuable lessons to the children.
It was in the 18th in England that the modern children’s book first came to be. The early children’s books were small compared to our modern story books, but the concept of making the cover colorful and attractive remained the same through time.
A few decades after the creation of the first children’s book, many authors were inspired to create their own children’s stories and books or compile children’s stories from different countries. The famous names Hans Christian Andersen (of the Little Mermaid, Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina and The Snow Queen fame), the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm a.k.a. The Brothers Grimm (popularized Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White) and Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) emerged and made their renowned and well-loved stories for children.
If you’re going to ask children these days about the stories written by these authors, you’d be surprised that they know and are familiar of these stories. It’s remarkable how long children’s books can last, especially the ones by Andersen, Grimm and Carroll which were made in the early 19th century, nearly two centuries from now.
The way in which we read children’s books can explain their timeless appeal. They become part of our emotional memoirs, our experiences and precious memories, much like the appeal of your favorite music or song.
Another explanation is that children’s books were created to be re-read. Authors and writers of all children’s books and stories have kept in mind that their books may be re-read by children or when they become grown up. We can safely assume that re-reading is a given for authors of children’s books. This why children’s books appeal not only to children but for grownups as well because these books were made to have many layers and work on different levels. Our rewards for re-reading children’s books are our deeper understanding and our perspective growing richer each time.