The Importance of Children’s Literature
The Importance of Children’s Literature and its Impact on Adulthood It Is assumed that If an adult has a strong passion for reading and educating children, then that adult must have had a childhood of abundant children’s books and bedtime stories. However, Shirley Brice Heath has a much different background than the one assumed for an educator. Heath tells her story in her own chapter of The Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature, titled, “The Book as Home? It All Depends”. Heath’s story shows her love of literature coming from something very contrary to a home full of books.
Heath kept her childhood close to her and never revealed it to others. To many, it was unfathomable for an English teacher to have never owned a children’s book. For Heath, it was a reality. Heath grew up in a “household, not home” (p. 33). She was raised by her grandmother while her parents seemed to be too busy with their own lives. Her grandmother did not own any books and the only book she ever came across was the Hymn book at Sunday service. (Heath, 2010, p. 35). According to Heath: “Reading with young children requires times for snuggling and conversing.
As hillier grow in their reading, they need ample space for sprawling out bodies and books whose numbers and sizes may overwhelm the capacity of available bookshelves. Children who read books demand time for stop-action attention from adults willing to inspect drawings, watch dramatic re-enactments, and listen to retelling of tales. Childhood reading comes with a price, literal and figurative, in time, space, and commitment by intimates who love their children and value reading as a part of the expression of love. ” ( Heath, 2010, p. 3). Essentially, If parents do not have the devoted time or willingness to spend with heir children, then childhood stones will be scarce. Heaths childhood proves that even If the time and attention from parents (or grandparents) Is not available, a passion for literature can still be achieved on the Journey to adulthood (Heath, 2010, p. 33). When it was time for school, Heath was sent to live with a foster family in North Carolina so she could attend the first grade. This is when Heath started to uncover the wonders of reading.
She found books in her classroom and was also assigned reading for school. When it was time to return to her Grandmother for the summer, her foster Mother gave her a book of her own to read. She retold her grandmother all the stories she read at school throughout the summer, but when it was time to return to school, Heath chose otherwise. She chose to stay with her grandmother on their farm and continue reading books which she borrowed from a local elementary school (Heath, 2010, p. 36), Heath helped her Grandmother malignant their farm.
It was a town wide Job raising tobacco. Her town mostly consisted of black farmers, while the white families Heath was in secondary school, her mother decided she wanted Heath and her grandmother to move with her to Florida. Heath quickly met a group of friends, airing in different races including Puerco Rican, Cuban, Filipino, Jewish and Atheist. There, Heath had to learn to speak Spanish in order to fit in and succeed so she read many Spanish literature books (p. 37). During her years of high school, Heath’s yearning to read and write became more evident.
She was the school’s newspaper editor and spent plenty of time with the town’s newspaper publishers in hopes of learning more. She was so enthralled in literature that she decided to attend Wake Forest, but left after one academic year when her professor told her that majoring in Mathematics was against the norms of society and not a woman’s position. Heath’s run in with discrimination led her to Mississippi where she worked in the Civil Rights movement and later California to tutor children, particularly black and immigrant children. (p. 36-37).
In the sass’s after she had completed all of her schooling, she started to conduct studies of creative writers. She wanted to know details like what they would write about or why they would chose a particular book in a bookstore (p. 38). One author she came across in her studies helped prove her discovery of adult readers interested in “serious fiction” . Heath believes that there are two types of adult adders. The first of those readers had an “experience as a child with reading models-intimates who valued reading and encouraged others to take up this good habit” (p. 9). In other words, their parents or guardians took interest in reading; therefore, instilling this good habit in their children. The second kind of adult reader is the “social isolate”. Heath defines the social isolate as “the individual who from an early age feels different from everyone else and who may or may not read as a child, but will, if fortunate, later discover literature and find others sorting out their unique Sistine in life. Readers of the social isolate variety are much more likely to become writers than those of the modeled-habit variety’ (p. 9). Heath believes that loneliness and isolation as a child are what guide writers to become writers. People like to read something that they find relatable to their life. Throughout Heath’s years of work, she searched for literature that the children could relate to. It is common for one to “avoid the writings of authors whose characters live their lives in social classes with which she has little familiarity’ (Heath, p. 39). Children enjoy elating to books because they can use their imagination to make themselves a character in their own mind.
This is the reason writers provide characters with naivety, bravery and a knack for adventure. These are all common traits that children possess or wish to possess. Through an interpretation of Heath’s projections, it is clear that one reads or writes to fill a space left by loneliness, to feed their need for imagination, to relate to others, or to leave a world where they may not be accepted and travel to where all ideas are possible. For children, books can provide these needs. Classic works such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird have been mandatory readings for schools for many years now.
They provide children with helpful insight and even show the adult readers that children have more knowledge and wisdom then they may lead on. These two timeless youth novels also include the are reading these books of adventure and imagination, they are subconsciously learning right from wrong. Other works such as The Boy in The Striped Pajamas and The Shepherd’s Granddaughter also provide children with a sense of relation. Although in these asses the characters’ experiences are traumatic and unrepeatable in that sense, the reader can feel what the character feels.
The Shepherd’s Granddaughter is a great novel for broadening children’s knowledge of other cultures. Heath found importance in expanding knowledge to all groups and cultures. This book, as do most children’s novels, shows the impact of innocence on adults. The main characters who are usually children, end up in situations where their innocence and naivety affect the adult’s in the situation as well. There is no time frame for reading children’s literature, as Heath herself did not tart till later in life. It can teach a variety of things to those of all ages.
The importance of reading as a child is clearly stressed in Heath’s chapter. By no means does Heath try to take away from those children who have had a life full of bedtimes stories. She simply wants to share with others that a passion for reading and literature can arise at any time in life for any reason. A childhood of loneliness is a prime reason for adult readers. It is so simple for one to lose themselves in a book, which is why in times of stress, nothing sounds better than a good read. Heath has devoted her life to studies of readers and writers.
She has found that she is not alone in finding her passion for literature in adulthood. She has reasons for why one reads and writes; loneliness, emptiness, sense of relation and habit. Anyone who may call themselves a reader can probably attest to one of them. That said, no matter where or when one learns to read, the most important thing is that they did.