Seven Reasons Grown-Ups Should Read Kid's Books
July 29, 2013
Admit it: Sometimes, you get tired of reading adult books. Sometimes, you get tired of the drama and suspense, the family meltdowns and illicit affairs, the drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll. Sometimes, you long to curl up with an old friend like Ramona Quimby or Encyclopedia Brown, and just escape into a world of sixth-grade crushes and hilarity-filled summer vacations. I know because I, too, am an adult who wants to read kid’s books. My advice to you: Go for it. There are tons of reasons adults should read kid’s books. Here are seven of them.
1) Kid’s books are short.
What do these three books have in common: Sidekicks, Dan Santat’s graphic novel about superhero pets; Dark Sons, Nikki Grimes’ novel-in-verse about fathers and sons; and Cabin Fever, the sixth book in Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series? Give up? I read them all last weekend, and not one of them took more than a couple of hours! Kid’s books are breezy and quick, the perfect bite-sized nibblets of fiction for the busy adult.
2) Kid’s books are just as well-written as grown-up books.
“Oh,” you say, “but kid books are so juvenile.” Well, yes. That’s kind of the point. But just because they are written for a lower reading level doesn’t mean that they aren’t as entertaining and rewarding as books for adults. I defy you to remain unmoved by R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, or Rodman Philbrick’s Freak the Mighty. Try to read Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret without drooling over the art, or Lemony Snicket’s Who Could That Be at This Hour? without scratching your head in bewilderment. Being a kid’s book doesn’t mean it’s just for kids!
3) Kid’s books are an easy way to learn something new.
We’d all like to be the kind of people who read big fat biographies of George Washington and Eleanor Roosevelt, or who carry around enormous tomes on the Civil War or Ancient Rome, but the fact is that most of us just aren’t. Kid’s nonfiction is a great way to get the basic facts of politics and history without straining our backs. Books like Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson, Cleopatra Rules! by Vicky Alvear Shecter, and (my favorite) Poop Happened! by Sarah Albee are easy, informative, and fun.
4) Reading kid’s books validates kid’s reading.
My childhood was spent listening to my mom read out loud. I couldn’t begin to list all of the books she read to us, but I particularly remember working our way through Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. Mom and Dad enjoyed those books just as much as we did, and I am a reader today because they showed me it was fun way back then. Investing time in kid’s books—especially when shared—leaves an impression that lasts for years.
5) Reading kid’s books connects you to the kids in your life.
I recently introduced my niece and nephews to Mo Willems’ awesome Pigeon books. We tore through them, laughing all the way, and then turned right back around and started reading them again. That Pigeon is a rascal, but he helped forge a bond between me and three little giggling kiddos. Kid’s books show us that we have more in common with our crumb-grabbers than we would expect!
6) Reading kid’s books reminds you of your childhood.
I was seven years old. I was sitting on the couch in our living room with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, trying to snatch a few words before being hustled out the door by my parents. I was reading the chapter in which Aslan the Lion is tied to the Great Stone Table, and I was mesmerized by Lewis’ descriptions of the vicious beasts and horrible monsters that had assembled to witness Aslan’s death. Every time I reread that book (which is fairly often), that scene takes me back to that couch in that living room at that age. The books that were our magic portals as kids become our time machines as adults.
7) Kid’s books are fun!
This is the most important reason of all. Reading should be fun, and kid’s books are (usually) all about fun! Whether adventurous (try The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy), magical (ever read 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass?), haunting (Keep the lights on during Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn!), or just plain bizarre (A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is as funky as they come), kid’s books are a joy to read. And, after all, isn’t that why we read in the first place?