I was still reading my favorite classic children’s books from childhood when I was a young professional and I remember having a good cry over Sarah in The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett one weekend that I was home.
I even have a distinct memory of wondering why I was still reading and enjoying the books that I loved when I was 10 years old. There might even have been a tinge of embarrassment about it and maaaybe I slightly wondered what was wrong with me!
Fast-forward to many, many years later. Now I know why I kept re-reading my old favorites all the way to adulthood: they were classic children’s books. Re-reading them may have given me the same plot over and over again, but I gleaned new wisdom when I read them at different times of my life. They formed a major part of my childhood, with impact that I can still recognize up to now.
What’s the fuss over classic children’s books?
Classic children’s books:
- were written specifically for children
- are widely accepted and recognized as having high literary value
- impart important ideas about life and living,
- greatly appeal to young readers from generation after generation.
Literary organizations usually designate the label “classic” to books, and continuing, unrelenting demand for certain titles through decades, play a part in this as well.
We usually think of classic books as being more than a hundred years old. But being old is not a yardstick for being deemed a classic; there are also those considered as new or modern classics that have been written more recently, but have that same quality that speaks to and makes a space in children’s minds and hearts. These books endure.
Here are my personal reasons for enjoying classic children’s books since childhood and reading them up to now in my life as a mom:
1. They introduce readers to different cultures and ways of living
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare was my introduction to Puritans and their deadly witch hunts.
The Little Princess, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, other than making me cry each time I read them, were fascinating introductions to English nobility as well as British India.
2. They open the heart to empathize with experiences far removed from one’s own
Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, a modern classic, made me see World War II, Nazis, Germans, and Jews in the eyes of someone who was my own age (when I read it). I felt Anne’s giddiness over Peter, her annoyance with her mother, and her fear of being discovered by the Nazis.
I couldn’t get enough of her story that I read more about the war and watched the 1959 movie based on her diary. (But I’m really a sucker for old movies, once going through a lot of the movies in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movies of All Time!) This reminds me to watch the movie again with my 13 year old who’s always re-reading Anne Frank’s diary!
3. They help improve vocabulary and language skills
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved words and putting ideas to paper. Reading books other than the popular Sweet Valley Twins/High and Sweet Dreams books (yup, I read them too!) helped me acquire words and idioms effortlessly, which became very handy during college entrance exams as well as competitive Scrabble and Boggle games!
Classic children books do not use dumbed-down language, but instead expect and challenge readers to glean meaning from context or to look it up.
4. They give adolescents a glimpse of the future and a gateway to their interests
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster is one my childhood favorites, and one of the books that I passed on to my eldest several years ago. It is about an orphan girl who wrote letters to the man who sponsored her college education. This gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to be a young adult going to college and meeting new people. It also got me interested in writing, like Judy was.
5. They subtly model values and virtues
An article about classic children’s books will not be complete without mentioning Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The March sisters gave me inspiration to be more frugal, to treat others with kindness, and to be nicer to my parents!
My daughter, who was seven when she first read it, learned how to control her temper. I was surprised one time when I knew she was angry at me for something, and she suddenly became quiet and left the room. After a while, she excitedly told me that she was imitating Marmee from Little Women when she was mad, to avoid saying things that she would regret.
How we enjoy classic children’s books
With all of those said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our home is filled with classic children’s books that we spend a lot of time reading. Until now, I can’t let go of my old books because really, these are highly enjoyable even for grown-ups!
I love revisiting my old favorites, introducing them to my children, and discovering new-to-me old titles.
If you would love to stock up on classic children’s books, you won’t go wrong with the titles we have over at the TLB Book Shop. Click here!