We reminisce about being a kid, but what if we actually allowed ourselves to do the fun things we used to do?
The first goal I remember setting was to read every book in the library. Before 6th grade, there was no shortage of clean, fun, uplifting stories about honorable heroes from morally upright families on my reading level available there. But since then, it’s become more challenging to find books that meet my pleasure-reading specs.
Later, when I took Children’s Literature in college, I discovered book-friends I didn’t know I was missing. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O helped me stay confident and patient in dating, Holes made me a better friend, and the parenting lessons I learned from The Great Gilly Hopkins still follow me today.
Finally I asked myself, “Who made the rule that I have to read adult books now that I’m an adult? Being an adult means I get to make my own choices, and I choose to read children’s books!”
And so my rebellious days of reading children’s books for myself began.
Here are three fictional children’s books I discovered as an adult that changed my life for the better:
- Frindle, by Andrew Clement. If you can’t discover how to become a paradigm-breaking entrepreneur or life-changing educator from reading this fictional account of a fifth grader who invented a new word, no quick-start guide to start-up success will be able to help you. The main character in Frindle begins his journey with an idea and a decision, which morph into a plan. As he defends his idea but lets go of the consequences, that decision grows into a movement, something bigger than he can control. There is an antagonist, but no bad guys. This book is full of normal people doing what they do with their own interests and personalities which, in my experience, is realistic. It moves quickly — even reading it aloud I finished in an hour and a half — and the ending is one of the most beautifully crafted I’ve ever read. 4th grade reading level.
- Stargirl, by Jerry Spinneli. Have you ever felt like your spouse, your family, the world at large, didn’t know what to do with you? Stargirl suddenly arrives on the school scene, smiling and confident with her unusual style. In her bold but unassuming way, she unintentionally challenges the fiercely guarded power structue that exists in your average American Middle School. Stargirl is so good at ignoring rivalries and power asymmetries that you begin to wonder whether she can see them. A decade after my first read-through, I’m still learning how to embrace my inner Stargirl, in a world far to eager to extinguish bright lights. 6th grade reading level.
- Waiting for the Magic, by Patricia MacLachlan. What would you do if your spouse walked out the door, leaving you with two children and no indication of when he would return? Pack up the kids, drive over to the shelter, and adopt four dogs, right? This mother and her children each deal with anger, grief, and confusion in their own way, all while their new pets patiently teach them how to communicate with them, and each other. When Dad does return, it takes the whole gang to help him see where the magic is, and how to get it. This book found me when my husband had recently reported to a job overseas we weren’t sure the duration of, so it was comforting to me on many levels. It won’t spoil the plot to say this husband was faithful to his wife during his absence (and so was mine). 4th grade reading level.
Whether you’re starting a movement, growing into yourself, struggling with loss big or small, or just looking for a good clean read to enjoy, I hope you’ll swing by the children’s section and give one of these a try. If you do, please comment below and let me know what you thought of it!
Now it’s your turn. What would you add to this list of must-reads? What children’s books have been meaningful to you in your life?
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