To be clear, in this post I won’t be defending the validity of children’s books. Rather, I’ll be defending the idea that grown-ups should read “children’s books” once in a while. Even if you’re not a teacher or a writer or what have you.
This past week I finished reading “Matilda” by Roald Dahl. I hadn’t ever read it before. Can you believe it? I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, but never read this book. With the release of The BFG movie, which I read numerous times in my childhood, I figured I’d put this disgrace to rest. So I went to my local 2nd & Charles and bought it for $3.
Unfortunately, after I did that I went on vacation, so my reading got a bit postponed. But I finished it this weekend. Lately I have been reading a lot of psychological thrillers like Gillian Flynn and “The Girl on the Train.” I was actually about to start reading “The Good Girl,” when I decided to give my brain a break.
This was a really good move, I have to say. Not only do these books give us a break from adulting, but they give us a break from life in general. They allow us big lumbering adults with responsibilities and gas bills to crawl inside of a wonderful, imaginative world for a few hours with a blanket and hot chocolate and return to our childhood selves. You would never find a girl genius using magical powers to scare away an evil headmistress in those big classics we all like to say we’re reading.
It just doesn’t happen.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy the change of pace and the utter loveliness of being inside a child’s mind. That’s also why I love to go see “kid’s movies” in the theaters. I have no shame in admitting that “Up” is one of my favorite movies of all time. The entire time I was reading “Matilda,” I was imagining my 7-year-old self reading it. I thought that 7-year-old Mackenzie would really empathize with Matilda because all I wanted to do at that age was lock myself in my room and read books. I didn’t have magical powers and my parents really did love me. But something about the small girl with brown eyes, brown hair, and a ribbon on top of her head, she would have just touched 7-year-old Mackenzie’s heart in a way no other book would until I was 16. I feel bad that I missed out on this book when I was a kid. It would have told me that what I like is good, and I’m good for liking it and being smart and doing homework and working hard at school.
And, to some extent, it makes me feel that way now. Looking back at all of my schooling, my life so far. Books have always been there, a constant definition of personality, a steady stream in my rocky life.
And now I wonder what 7-year-old me would have felt if I had read “The Little Prince.”
I guess that will be next on my list when I need a break from adulting.
Some may argue that reading these books diminishes… something. I don’t really know what they think will happen if you read something below your level. What, will you go all Benjamin Button? I would argue the opposite. Not only do you add to your repertoire of reading, your view continues to expand. A lot of the point of reading is to gain knowledge of experiences different than yours, and maybe compare notes and come to an broader understanding of the world in general.
The world of a child is just as worth exploring and understanding as that of a young refugee, or a migrant worker, or an arranged couple. Once you grow up, you lose all attachment with that world and it changes without you. It’s worth understanding throughout your years.
In fact, I’m considering writing a children’s book series. That’s how invested I am in this belief.
So please, go find a “children’s book.” It can even be a favorite one you remember from your Kindergarten class. Now read it again. Even if you don’t agree with me, don’t you feel just a little bit better about life?
That’s how I feel.
What was your favorite children’s book? What good children’s books have you read lately? Do you think it is a good thing for grown ups to read so-called children’s books? Let’s talk.