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Next time you want to read, grab a chil­dren’s book. Courtesy | Wiki­media Commons

Dad goes to the shelf as his 4, 6, and 8‑year-old boys climb into the king-size bed. “Mystery on the Docks!” they shout as they bounce on the bed in their pajamas. Dad finds the book, slides into his spot on the bed, and begins to read as his sons help turn the pages.

Of course, dad has already read “Mystery on the Docks” about a thousand times, but somehow the book still manages to make his sons smile and wiggle with excitement. That’s the charm of children’s books: they’re timeless.

When we read children’s lit­er­ature, we reconnect with our expe­ri­ences and mem­ories as children. As we enter adulthood, many of us look back at childhood as a fun time in the past and some­thing to be for­gotten. Yet if we revisit the books of our childhood, we re-awaken that part of our­selves. The lit­er­ature allows us to retrace our steps, see our growth over the years, and seize the moments that once brought us so much joy. Some­times we might read the books only for nostalgia’s sake, but often, we come to dis­cover a truth about our­selves that we didn’t realize — we learn how to become children again.

We also come to better under­stand children through reading their lit­er­ature. We learn how to speak their lan­guage and realize that they have matters that require attention just as much as ours do. For some reason, we come to think our problems are more important because we are “adults.” Yet, true empathy is all about placing oneself in the shoes of the other person. How are children an exception to this rule? 

Reading chil­dren’s books evokes the world of imag­i­nation. Think of “The Winged Watchman” by Hilda van Stockum. The story gives a fic­tional, but his­torical, account of a Dutch family that unknow­ingly acts as part of the resis­tance during the Nazi occu­pation in Holland. Stockum works sus­pense, excitement, and intrigue throughout the book to build a living picture of the era. In the book, she writes, “A certain amount of knowledge is nec­essary for wisdom, and without wisdom, knowledge is not only useless, it’s dan­gerous.” In this passage, she reveals the political leaders of the time who used their power and knowledge to create destruction rather than life. 

Adulthood requires fact, pro­duc­tivity, and control, cre­ating a melan­cholic spirit toward life. Chil­dren’s books are a source of expe­ri­encing life in a mys­tical and thrilling sort of way. They create their own little worlds that encourage us to exper­iment with life. Read early 20th century children’s writer E. Nesbit. “The Enchanted Castle,” “The Phoenix and the Carpet,” or “The Railway Children,” are all about letting the mind wander rather than placing it in a sti­fling box.

Children’s books give us lessons on sim­plicity. Many of us might feel the oblig­ation to read Fyodor Dos­to­evsky or Søren Kierkegaard, but children’s lit­er­ature is invaluable. Look at “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, which presents several striking themes or the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, which is full of rich description. So much of children’s lit­er­ature is unap­pre­ciated by adults because people dis­regard it as exclu­sively for children.

The most exciting part of reading children’s books is the element of fun and the reminder to enjoy life. One great example is the lit­er­ature of Robert McCloskey. In one of his books, “Homer Price,” McCloskey cap­ti­vates the humor and lovable absurdity in children’s lives. Homer, a young boy, is entrusted with the task of dis­man­tling a donut machine and putting the parts back together. Homer manages to start and fix the machine                              only upon dis­cov­ering a new problem — the machine will not stop making donuts. We don’t have to be 4, 6, or 8 years old to read and enjoy children’s lit­er­ature. Rather, we can keep dis­cov­ering the charm of children’s books or revis­iting the ones we already know, and realize how much more exciting and full life becomes. So, what book will it be?