We can all remember the first time we were captivated by a story. A parent, or maybe a teacher, read the words out loud, and suddenly, we were transported to a place that only exists inside of someone’s imagination. In a matter of seconds, we were immersed in a world of the author's creation as the warmth of the story filled our hearts and minds. We clung to its warmth as we braved the shaky waters of adolescence. It was pure magic.
For many of us, it was this feeling that inspired us to write. But as we got older, the books we read developed as well. We moved from picture books to chapter books. We explored different genres- from fantasy to mystery or adventure. We explored the worlds around us, both real and fictional, through the eyes of hundreds of authors. We stacked books on top of books, devouring them one by one.
As an adult, have you reread some of the books you loved when you were younger? Or even tried reading a children's book you've never read before? It’s easy to think you’d be bored by it now, or that it wouldn’t capture your attention the way it did when you were little. However, I think we can all learn something from C.S. Lewis when he said, "No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”
To become better writers, we must read. What we choose to read matters and if we're going to write the kinds of stories that captivate others, we have to remember the stories that first captivated us.
You don't need to be a children's writer or even a fiction writer to draw inspiration from children's books. If there's any doubt in your mind about the value of reading this genre, here's what children's literature can teach us.
When we're writing a story, it's easy to get caught up in the details. So much so that we forget about the why behind it. The children's literature we know and love usually has a moral, and even if the moral was simple, it was something that could be applied to our lives as children or adults. No matter what you’re writing, think about what someone might learn from your words, and don’t underestimate their power.
Whether it’s the characters in the story or the language, we know fiction for adults is typically more complex than children’s literature. However, the simplicity of children’s literature is a valuable reminder that the language or characters in a story don’t have to be complicated to be meaningful. Even simple words can pack a powerful punch, and there is more complexity in the simple things in life than we often realize.
The beauty of children’s literature is that children are easily captivated. While it’s more difficult nowadays for even the best stories to compete with electronic devices when it comes to holding the attention of children, still, anything can be magic when you’re a child. Reading children’s literature can help us find the magic in everything around us, inspiring us to write stories about the things we see every day.
Not every children’s story has a happy ending, but those that do remind us how healing a happy ending can be. In the world we live in, it’s sometimes hard not to become cynical and as adults, we know happy endings don’t always happen in the real world. But in literature, happy endings remind us to look for the good in the world and to have hope for the future.
Children may not read for fun as much as they used to, but those of us who grew up hoarding piles and piles of books understand that stories are magical. The literature we read as children sticks with us for a reason- so when you’re telling your own story, choose a children’s book for inspiration. We can all learn something about storytelling from children’s literature. You might even be inspired to create a story filled with your own kind of magic.
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