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More Play in May: Children’s Literature

May 17, 2016

UnknownIt may say more about me than anything else, that I find so much to think about and write about in Gretchen Rubin’s May chapter “Be Serious about Play.” Today I’m taking look at her particular source of fun: children’s literature. Just the mention of book titles in this chapter rang all kinds of bells for me.

I have been a fan of young adult (YA) lit since the genre was identified. Some trace its beginning to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, even though plenty of books written before that one could fit into the category better than children’s lit. In the years I’ve attended the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), I not only found myself introduced to many great works of YA lit, but to the authors as well–S.E. Hinton, Robert Cormier, Paul Danziger, Paul Zindel, Lois Lowry, and so many more.

Rubin’s explanation of the difference between children’s literature and adult literature, not merely a superficial difference, makes sense to me:  these books deal with universal themes, particularly good versus evil. They deal with real human conflicts, social justice, life and death, fate and free will. No set of books exemplifies this point better than J.K. Rowling’ Harry Potter series. I know some adults who steered clear of these books because they were children’s books or because they had garnered so much hype that these readers thought there must be some trick.

I might have skipped them myself for the latter reason if I hadn’t read the first book before all the hoopla. I was as captivated by each book as any of my high school students were. I felt better about my appreciation for some of the strong messages when Gretchen Rubin admitted that she too “love[s] didactic writing.”

I have to take a note from the chapter in which she points out that we have “plenty of time to have fun!” My first reaction to this chapter is a desire to re-read some of my old favorites, especially now that I know right where to find them, having unpacked those boxes and given them a place of their own in the rooms we have furnished for our grandchildren’s visits. While I have so many other books on the figurative pile on the nightstand (temporarily displaced as we’re having the bedroom floors finished), I may have to venture back through Little Women, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Charlotte’s Web, Where the Red Fern Grows. If I get industrious, maybe my grandchildren and I can read through the Little House series together, which my fourth grade teacher read in its entirety, a few minutes a day after lunch.

If I follow through with this plan, I’ll also capitalize on another point made in the chapter: “[E]ach common interest between people boosts the chances of a lasting relationship and also brings about a 2 percent increase in life satisfaction.”

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