Celebrating Kidlit this International Children's Book Day
In honor of International Children’s Book Day (April 2, 2022), I’d like to take some time to rant and rave about children’s literature. I’ve been deeply immersed in the world of kidlit, mostly through my love of reading and writing YA, for at least six or seven years now. Which means I didn’t really start thinking critically or engaging with kidlit until I was…literally in my 20s, and not a kid anymore.
And the bulk of my experience with kidlit has been in the Young Adult realm, but as I’m currently pursuing my MFA in a program dedicated to kidlit, I’m reading a lot more middle grade and even a few picture books. And I’m finding so much delight and joy in books for those age categories. There’s so much to love in literature for kids, even if you’re an adult.
Personally, I love reading kidlit because I love putting myself back in that headspace. There’s a nostalgia, yes, but there’s also a freshness to it; a way of viewing the world that isn’t as jaded as my own. A common refrain among writers of kidlit I is that the books we write have to end in hope. And as a reader, and someone who lives with depression and is always aware of just how hopeless life can be, it’s wonderful to get a dose of hope in my stories.
One of my classmates at VCFA, Lori Housley, said she loves reading kidlit because she’s still able to connect with the characters.
“My favorite part about reading them is how I connect to the story and characters,” Lori said. “I'm 50 and I still tear up when I read The Lion Inside or The Invisible Boy. I sobbed as I connected with the main character in the middle grade novel Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World.”
The beautiful thing about children’s literature is that well-crafted stories about and for children and teens do not have to be limited to an audience of children and teens. I myself have sobbed reading stories about teenagers where I saw aspects of myself, whether it was in an adult character or in the personality and identity of the main character.
Another classmate, Margaret Mason, shared that she loves writing kidlit because of “the joy of creating stories that have the possibility of creating connections with and among kids.”
Finally, my classmate Jen Malia spoke to the importance of children’s literature by saying, “Children’s literature opens a window to the world and provides kids with positive representations of themselves in books.”
Ultimately, kidlit is written about and for kids, but adults like me can read it, love it, connect with it, and appreciate it both thematically and stylistically.
This International Children’s Book Day, I’d like to remind myself and others of that. Though mostly written by adults, books for children exist to help kids navigate the trials and tribulations of life, and as long as they’re achieving that purpose, they’re doing alright!
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