I Take Children’s Books Too Seriously

I enjoy a good book.  I’ve liked books from when I was a child reading when I was three.  I didn’t care for the readings that were forced upon me in High School English but after college I learned to enjoy reading again.   I like being caught up in a story, finding a book that you can’t put down and having that sense of accomplishment when I close the book for the final time.  I like to delve into a person’s biography to learn about their development and the reasonings for beginning their life’s calling.  Ever since I attended seminary my list of books on my “to-read” list has been ever growing.  Due to the rise of technology books can go with us with general ease.  I love my Kindle and when I don’t have it I know the Kindle App is right there for me.

But all of that goes out the window when it comes to children’s books.  To be honest, I love children’s books.  It started when I was a kid; my mother is a Kindergarten teacher and I liked to read her latest addition.  I thought they were cute, funny, simplistic and even poignant.

When I became a parent I knew that at some point the daily routine would including reading stories to my child.  I knew the stats about verbal ability and cognition with respect to a child hearing the language.

But that changes when you have to read the same book over and over again before bed with your child.  I, like many parents, have tried the reverse psychology to get out of reading “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” for the 147th time that month, but it never works.  Hiding them never works either; we have to look through the entire bookshelf until the book “magically” reappears.

So whatever the book choice is, I read it, sometimes by memory and sometimes with a smile on my face.  Sometimes as I am reading the book in my head I am adding witty banter and commentary for two reasons: 1) it helps me to stay awake and engaged in the story and 2) the book will be entertaining to me and not a chore.  As hard as I try it can be difficult to be fully present at bedtime readings.

But maybe through it all I am taking children’s books too seriously.  Have I been jaded by my 30 year old eyes in which I see the world?  Do I see children’s books as more fantasy than reality to which we are propping up our children?  Do I need to learn to relax and enjoy some easy reading?  Maybe…

For example, my daughter has this book about going to the doctor.  It’s a cute book but there are some glaring issues that I see in it.  First, the boy is sick and needs to go to the doctor.  His mother takes him but also takes his friend along with him because she had a tummy ache last week and needed to go back for a check up.  I get what the author is trying to do here; the author is trying to show that sometimes we have to go to doctor even if we feel better to ensure everything is ok.  But that is not what I have an issue with.  First, the two children are holding hands throughout the book.  My first thought was “isn’t the boy sick and won’t that transfer the germs to the girl?”  Secondly, is it legal for the mom to take another person’s child to the doctor?  I used to work in a healthcare setting and my HIPAA alarm was going off.  Finally, the examination room was the size of a small house.  The room had a table, an area to play for the child who wasn’t being seen, a desk with a computer for the doctor and a view of a beautiful landscape.  In what fantasy land does this place exist?  In my experience of exam rooms, they are about the size of a janitor’s closet and have maybe two chairs and several copies of Zoo Books from 1987 in them, with diagrams of the human body and Care Bears adorning the walls.

Maybe my beef with children’s books is that I wish that they could be reality.  In children’s books the world is so much simpler.  Animals talk and walk and in some cases run for President, the doctor is not a scary place to go, there is generally a resolution of conflict is a manner of distributive justice and good moral teaching.  As a father that’s what I want for my daughter, but I know that truly is a fantasy.  I know that the world is not as happy and pretty as the books make it, but maybe that is why we read them in the first place.

Maybe I do take them too seriously from my adult perspective, but for a child I believe that they can be a glimpse of what can be and how humanity can act or even should act.  Books offer an escape from the world around us; they allow us to enter into a place for maybe a moment to find respite and to use the power of our imagination.

I have no plans to stop reading to my children or stop taking them seriously, but I do hope for the idyllic worlds found within the pages of children’s books will come to life in their lives.

Here’s to the dreams that children have, may they come true.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan