Review: Why Should Adults Read Children's Books?
Cardiff Children's Literature Festival: Why Should Adults Read Children's Books?
Wednesday 20th March 2013
Why should adults read children's books?
It's a question I have found myself saying for some years. I recall one Christmas Day at my grandmother's house. My mother had purchased for me a copy of both Charles Dickens' Bleak House (I must get around reading this) and Dr. Seuss' Cat In The Hat. I recall my older sister mocking and questioning me as to why I would seek out such a childish and immature read. I stated my claim with much praise for the book. It is a children's classic. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So why shouldn't I read it? American children seem to read him a lot more than us. We of course, have the great, Cardiff-born Roald Dahl.
These issues and more were tackled by Peter Hunt, one of the first academics to study children’s books at a professional level. His charming nature and humour didn’t make it seem like a lecture but rather a casual presentation with close friends. It is amazing how much you can enjoy a lecture, especially at Cardiff Uni. For most students, lectures can be drudgery. But if you are interested in the subject and are willing to learn more, you can get more out of a lecture than you would think.
He spoke of his distain for the chosen covers for the editions of the books he introduced. These included Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Treasure Island and The Secret Garden. There are apparently 81 editions of Alice. A huge number for one book. Hunt has had to tread carefully with writers societies with one person going up to him and quoting Yeats, "Tread softly, before you tread on my dreams."
Hunt’s spouse being a midwife, she one day came home and spoke of how she had delivered lots of babies, one in a hallway. When she asked him what he had done with his day he replied, "I noticed a typo in an edition of Alice In Wonderlandâ€¦’
He pointed out many in-jokes that Lewis Carroll incorporated into Alice. A drawing of the puppy bears a great resemblance to a young Charles Darwin. How similar The Wind In The Willows is to Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome and how the former is not to be seen as a work for children. Treasure Island has exactly 206 nautical terms, each one verified as being really used by sailors.
During questions at the end, one lady was rather irate at how Canton Library had closed down [Sub-Ed Note: From Sunday 1st April 2013 Canton Library will be closed on Thursdays, as well as Sundays]. She went to say how important it is for children to read with an actual book. This brought about the discussion of technology and how it's making children lose the love for books. After all, on the iPad all the classics are free. This lady then went on inform one other questioner of her "...middle class status". This seemed unfair. Children must be taught the importance of real books and how their libraries are places of importance today. Not just somewhere to fall asleep for half-an-hour and use the toilet.
He had a few jibes at publishers. But I did feel I was in the company of well-read readers and Welsh-speakers. I’m ashamed to say I have never read any of the discussed books, only reading a few chapters of Alice. Must get round to carrying on reading it.
Hunt was a pleasure to hear and his persuasion for us to read these great stories again, not as pieces of nostalgia, but rather fresh works that can be shared with all the family.
We must simply read more.
If you're interested in reading, why not get involved with the Reading Power Book Club? The Reading Power Book Club is a new virtual book club for young people in Cardiff and involves Reading Power, Cardiff Libraries, Cardiff Council, TheSprout and you!
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