ReadersMagnet takes a close look at modern children’s stories- their narratives, elements, and impact.
Children’s books are essential tools for learning processes. From nursery rhymes, picture books, fairy tales, fables to contemporary realistic fiction, they introduce young readers to basic knowledge, information, and values formation. Without children’s books, it would be hard for us to teach them about alphabets, writing, reading, numbers, life cycles, good manners, and virtues. Over the years, children’s books have evolved. Today’s children’s books are more grounded to reality. They cover many areas and themes that stories from 30 to years ago were not considered topics for discussion for age brackets we labeled as young readers. Aesthetically, children’s books have taken many creative forms (3D illustrations, interactive books, and of course, digital format) literally and figuratively. Let us take a close look at how today’s writers are producing children’s stories, the subject themes, the format, and how they impact modern young readers.
One area of children’s books that has evolved greatly over the past years is the subject. Fairy tales and fables usually center around good and evil, magical stories, almost impossible adventures, and topics limited to certain subjects. However, recently published books are engaging more mature and relevant themes like everyday realities and social issues. There is a rise in children’s books about racism, bullying, cultural issues, and tolerance for the marginalized. In Mommy Mommy Look the Man Has One Leg, author William Dalmas teaches children how to be sensitive to other people’s disabilities. In Julius Lester’s Let’s Talk About Race, kids are taught about the value of appreciating each other’s differences and how we are all equal and special in our own way. This is very relevant today with all that’s going on in the United States and in some parts of the world where there is racial tension. The rise of books talking about bullying is also noticeable.
Everyday experiences are also given emphasis in today’s modern children’s book. For example, in Keith Niles Corman’s Katie and Kenny Tour the Railroad, the author creates a narrative about trains for kids. However, the story is not just about two kids having a grand time with their father, who is a railroad engineer. The book is also about safety measures and avoiding accidents during railroad trips. Other children’s books that center on every experience include Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, The Complete Book for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids, why We Stay at Home by Samantha Harris, Devon Scott, and Harriet Rodis, which is all about the Coronavirus and the importance of safety protocols.
Just as the narratives evolved, lessons and values also changed. In the classical fables and fairytales, lessons are simple, and the values are either about kindness, honesty, bravery, and resourcefulness. Today, specific virtues are emphasized, such as tolerance, vigilance, integrity, thriftiness, humility, politeness, curiosity, and a sense of fairness are displayed or highlighted in today’s modern children’s books. While old moral values are never out of time and will always be embedded in children’s narratives, today’s readers are shown specific virtues and characteristics that should be emulated in today’s society.
It is because of this evolution that children’s stories remain relevant. They continue to show and educate the young minds about the reality that surrounds them. What is equally essential as the content and themes are the style and form used to deliver knowledge, information, and wisdom. The task of modern children’s book authors is to continue developing modern stories but with the same timeless values and virtues to equip future generations.
Keith Nile Corman is the author of Katie and Kenny Tour the Railroad. To know more about him and his other work, visit his website today.