Children's literature articles worth reading

Life's pretty full for the next couple of weeks with one more week of school, Christmas preparations, several significant weddings, serving as a study partner during finals for my favorite nursing student, and the general, lovely chaotic activity that goes on in a busy household in the month of December (or pretty much year round, truth be told). So my post on finding books worth reading for all ages will have to wait a bit. But if you love to read about children's literature, as I do, you may enjoy some of these articles which I've run across in the past several months.

Back in SeptemberThe Wall Street Journal ran a piece by Thomas Spence, father of six sons, on How to Raise Boys Who Read, and it gives an enlightening peek into the typical gross-out fare enjoyed by boys (and girls) in upper elementary grades. What can you do to encourage your sons (and daughters) to read? Hint: It doesn't involve stooping to the depths that Scholastic and other publishers think our sons must sink. Instead, minimize or eliminate screen time and make truly great books available. Reading aloud as a family doesn't hurt either. More on this later, too!

Children's editor Leila Sales wrote a provocative article in Publishers' Weekly titled "The Ol' Dead Dad Syndrome" in which she makes the case that parents, especially dads, seem to be noticeably and conveniently absent in current literary offerings for young adults. She puts this off primarily to lazy writers and has some intriguing points. This is not really anything new, however. Think off all the characters with at least one dead parent from classic literature: Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, Jane Eyre, and others. Parents do sometimes get in the way of a good adventure. Still, in older books, often authors portrayed intact families, but came up with other methods of dealing with or temporarily disposing of parents long enough to allow some rollicking good times. (C.S. Lewis sent the Pevensie children out to stay with Professor Kirk; E. Nesbit's children have great freedom, but usually have at least one parent somewhere in the background, for example.) Whatever you think, this article may make you take a second look at how families are treated in current and classic literature.

And finally, the New York Times published an article about the decline in picture book publication called "Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children." Apparently looking for more book for the buck, parents are eschewing picture books in favor of chapter books.  Now, I have no problem at all with reading Stuart Little to a four year old, but I hate to see little ones miss out on such delightful visual and auditory delights as Make Way for Ducklings, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Story about Ping, Caps for Sale, the Francis books, and hundreds of other classic picture books because their parents are in a hurry to move them on to "more meaty" chapter books. Trading Blueberries for Sal for a cheap, poorly written chapter book is a poor trade indeed! Another trick publishers are pulling is downsizing some of the old classics, eliminating illustrations and shrinking the page size. It's worth seeking out the older versions through Abebooks or at used book sales of many of these great books!


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