Why Children’s Books Matter

When I was old enough to read, my mother got me started on Walter Brooks’ excellent series of the Freddy Books. Freddy the pig and all his barnyard friends lived on the Bean farm in Centerboro. He and his friends had wonderful adventures together. If you have never had the pleasure of reading these excellent books (which, by the way, are enjoyed by adults as much as children), pop one or more of them on your Kindle, and enjoy the experience.

Each birthday and Christmas I received another Freddy book. Just as soon as I had my new Freddy book in my grubby little hands, I read it non-stop to the last page. They were and are wonderful stories filled with life lessons, laughter and my own *willful suspension of disbelief.

Then there are the Mother West Wind’s Animal stories, written by Thorton W. Burgess. My grandmother introduced me to this amazing series, and I loved each and every one of them. She had read these same books to my dad when he was a little boy, and before she died, she bequeathed all of the books to me. To this very day, I still read and love them.

One of the best children’s books in my opinion is Grimms’ Fairy Tales. How I loved all those stories! And, unlike some of the politically correct and sanitized children’s books of today, they went into glorious gory details. Remember little Red Riding Hood? When the big bad wolf snuck into her grandmother’s house and gobbled up the grandmother, the heroic woodsman showed up in time to slice open the wolf’s belly and save the grandmother.

Speaking only for myself, I think that it’s a wonderful thing to have imagination and to enjoy books about people and things and places that are only real in our minds and imagination. Even as a child that I knew that the wonderful books I loved weren’t exactly real—but while reading I would feel myself slip away from the world I knew and into a fabulous new world where anything could happen.

While reading the Freddy books, in my mind I walked and talked with Freddy the pig and his friend Jinx the cat. While reading the Mother West Wind’s Animal stories, I talked and laughed with all the forest folk. And while these books were entertaining to me, they also taught me a lot about friendship, kindness, generosity and fellowship.

After I put down one of these marvelous books, the world always seemed smaller and more confined. I would always feel as if I had emerged from a land of wonder to the flat colors of the world I lived in. Of course, I would snap out of it and enjoy each season, every event and everything else I liked. But at night, just before sleep, I would go back in my mind to the Bean farm and the forest where all my friends lived.

*From good old Wikipedia: The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe something surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. The term was coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.

Suspension of disbelief often applies to fictional works of the action, comedy, fantasy, and horror genres. Cognitive estrangement in fiction involves using a person’s ignorance to promote suspension of disbelief.

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