A Trip to the Library: Why Children’s Books Matter

Hello all! I feel like I haven’t written in a while. Last week I was busy meeting a deadline, so I didn’t have a chance to write, but this week I have a couple of new projects on the horizon along with some free time so here I am.

A few months ago I wrote about why I like Children’s and Young Adult books, and why I keep returning to them as a reader. So, as you can imagine, I was excited to hear about a new exhibit at the New York Public Library called The ABC’s of It: Why Children’s Books Matter. I must say, I never really paid attention to library exhibits too much before, but over the past year, I have been pleasantly surprised by the things that I find there (examples 1 and 2).


from the New York Times

The exhibit takes its viewer thematically through all the things that we have come to grow and love about children’s books, and covers everything from the history of children’s books and how they came about, to fairy tales and classics, to comic books and graphic novels, to books that have been banned in the past.

I was particularly interested in this exhibit, not only because of my love of children and YA/children’s books, but the exhibit also tied in with many of the classes that I took in college, such as Children’s Literature and Developmental Psychology. I also used much of the information from these classes to add to essays I was writing for other classes, so it was nice to revisit the topic and learn some new things about it. I wrote essays on the impact pictures have on childhood development, how the British Empire is depicted in British children’s books of the 20th century, and Harry Potter and its audiences.

The exhibit is set to run through next March, and I suggest to anyone who is thinking of going. It is aimed at both children and adults, and has many child friendly aspects to it, such as audio recordings to listen to, picture books placed throughout the exhibit, and various child-sized crawl spaces.

Probably my favorite quote from the exhibit was a quote from L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz books, on fairy tales, but I think it can be applied to many children’s books as a whole. It says,

To write fairy stories for children, [is] to amuse them, to divert restless children, sick children, to keep them out of mischief on rainy days…Few of the popular novels last the year out, responding as they do to a certain…characteristic of the time; whereas, a child’s book is, comparatively speaking, always the same, since children are always the same…with the same needs to be satisfied.

It is true – so many children’s books that are popular today have been around for a long time. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was the first novel length book for children, and was first published in the 1860’s. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was first published in the 1980’s, and the ever classic Goodnight Moon was first published in 1947. Children’s books have a sense of longevity to them more so than many adult books of the same era. Of course there are classics and best sellers that last throughout time, but children’s books are always aimed at children, and childhood rarely ever changes.


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