The Power of Children’s Literature

Children often enjoy hearing their favorite stories over and over again. While this natural tendency is beneficial for language development, it also resonates with something deep within children that reveals a unique way of looking at the world. Jerry Griswold describes this “wide distribution of consciousness” as one of the most familiar features of children’s thinking that is equally conspicuous in their literature” (124). Children’s literature differs from adult literature primarily in the prevalence of feelings and sensations experienced in childhood. Cynicism and despair are not emotions that are prominently featured in stories for children. “Children see beauty where there is ugliness; they are hopeful when adults have given up” (Huck 5). Although not all stories for children have happy endings, there is always a ray of hope in the end, even in the most tragic of circumstances.

Fairy tales and myths are especially valuable literature experiences for children because they help to stretch the imagination. “How many children would imagine creating a coach out of a pumpkin, horses from mice, and coachmen from lizards?” (Huck 7)Children have fewer opportunities to develop their ability to imagine since television and media provide an abundance of visual content.As a child growing up in the late 1950s, I recall that a favorite past time for my brothers and I was listening to children’s stories on long-playing records (LPs).Experiencing stories through listening to narration, dialogue, sound effects, and music forced us to create pictures in our minds as we listened to “Aesop’s Fables,” “Aladdin and His Magic Lamp,” “Tubby the Tuba,” and others. Although development of the imagination may not be perceived as essential in our current educational climate, it is essential for original and creative thought.Also, imagination is related to empathy, since relating to another person’s feeling req…