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Becoming One's Own Person: Exploring Children's Literature
Books for Children's Literature
Exploring literature for children
The story of every man and every woman is the story of growing up, of becoming a person, of struggling to become one's own person.
The kind of person you become has its roots in your childhood experiences-how much you were loved, how little you were loved and of the people who were significant to you
The ones who were not; the places you have been, and those you did not go to and the things you had and the things you did not get.
Yet a person is always more than the totality of these experiences; the way a person organizes, understands, and relates to those experiences makes for individuality.
Childhood is not a waiting room for adulthood but the place where adulthood is shaped by one's family, peers, society and, most importantly, the person one is becoming.
The passage from childhood to adulthood is a significant journey for each person. It is no wonder today that children's literature is filled with stories about growing up in society.
Living in a Family
The human personality is nurtured within the family; here the growing child learns of love and hate, fear and courage, joy and sorrow.
The first ''family life'' stories tended to portray families without moments of anger and hurt, emphasizing only the happy or adventurous moments.
Today the balance scale has titled in the other direction, and it is often more difficult to find a family story with well-adjusted children and happily married parents than it is to find a story about family problems.
If children are to see life wholly and gain some perspective from their reading, educators must help children balance their reading choices.
Episodic stories centered comfortably in a warm family setting are often the first chapter-book stories younger children read independently.
Young readers who more readily follow episodic rather than complicated plots.
Exploring literature for children and to look into the problems in the stories concerned allowed children to learn more. The problems which are small to adults but which loom so large in the lives of children, the sort of problem children can solve themselves.
In Ramona and her mother, Ramona worries that her mother doesn't love her as much as she loves Beezus, her older sister.
In Ramona and her father, Ramona is able to be with her father more often now that she returns from school to find him waiting for telephone calls about jobs he has applied for.
In Ramona's World, Ramona is involved with her new baby sister and beginning to feel the first romantic stirrings for her old friend ''Yard Ape.''
Anastasia Krupnik, Anastasia is the only girl in fourth grade whose name will not fit on the front of a sweatshirt.
To top off the list of ''Things I Love/Things I Hate'' that Anastasia keeps; one of the things she is sure she is going to hate is the arrival of a new baby brother. In an effort to appease her, Anastasia's parents let her choose the baby's name, and she considers the worst ones possible.
The death of her grandmother gives Anastasia some thoughts about the importance of family and of memories, and the new baby was named Sam after her grandfather.
This is whom Anastasia knows only through the reminiscences of her grandmother.
Sam's story is told in the hilarious All about Sam.
Anastasia and Sam with openness, humor, and respect; they are both literate and concerned parents whose careers as artist and English teacher do not interfere with their interactions with Anastasia and Sam.
Lowry has a gift for natural-sounding dialogue and situation humor, anchored by keen observations of human nature and family relationships.
No book has revealed the complexities of sibling rivalry with as much depth as Katherine Paterson’s challenging Newbery Medal-winning story Jacob Have I Loved.
Louise is convinced that she lives in her twin sister's shadow. Caroline, her beautiful, blond, delicate sister, is the talented one, who leaves their island home of Rass each week to take piano lessons.
Louise, or ''Wheeze,'' the hated name Carolina has given her, believes her sister has stolen everything from her; her parents' affection, her friends Call and the Captain, and her chance for an education.
Her half-crazed Bible-quoting grandmother recognizes her burning resentment of Caroline and taunts her with the quote ''Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.''
Paterson has skillfully woven the Bible story of Esau, first born, who was tricked into giving up his birthright to Jacob, the younger of the twin brothers, into this modern novel of sibling rivalry.
Only maturity and a family of her own can help Louise to put her hatred and resentment of her sister to rest.
The novel ends on a theme of reconciliation as Louise, now a midwife in a mountain community, fights to save the life of the weaker second-born baby of a pair of twins. In her Newbery acceptance speech for Jacob Have I Loved, the author, herself the middle child of five, said:
''Among children who grow up together in a family there run depths of feeling that will permeate their souls for good and ill as long as they live.''
Adolescence also seems to be a time for sometimes bitter conflicts between parents and children.
In Keven Henke's ''Protecting Marie,'' twelve year old Fanny finds it difficult to deal with her temperamental father's inconsistencies as the same time as she is thrust into the inconsistencies of early adolescence.
When her artist father, Henry, presents her with the puppy she has longed for all her life and then gives it away because it interferes with his painting.
Fanny is devastated. Although her father repents and brings home Dinner, an older, better-trained do, Fanny finds that she cannot trust her father, and their alienation increases. When the dog disappears one afternoon.
Fanny is sure Henry has given this one away, too. When Henry returns home for Dinner, Fanny reveals her fear for him. ''You don't understand me sometimes,'' she whispered, her voice changing sharply as her emotions rose.
''I am always worrying that you are going to take something away from me.''
In response Henry reveals something of his own vulnerability. There are strong enough bonds of love in this family that, with the stabilizing element of Fanny's mother.
There is a final promise of an improved relationship for Fanny and Henry and a permanent home for dinner.
In the ''Birthday Room,'' Henkes deals with long-held grudges between grown siblings.
Twelve year old Ben's mother has never forgotten her brother Ian for an accident that maimed Ben's hand.
When Ian asks Ben to come for a visit to Oregon, Ben's mother reluctantly agrees to accompany him. There they find that Ian's wife, Nina, is soon to give birth.
Even though sister and sister-in-law form an immediate bond, the tension continues between sister and brother.
Ben, caught in the middle, is distracted by his feelings for Lynnie, a neighbor girl.
However, Ben's efforts to help Lynnie's younger twin siblings , Kale and Elk, with a special project result in a near tragedy when Kale falls out of a tree and breaks his arm and leg.
Ben's feelings of guilt and remorse are mirrored by those of his Uncle Ian and his mother for their own culpability in Ben's accident years before. Unlike these two, however,
Ben accepts responsibility for his role in the accident and sets about to make amends to Kale. At the book's end, perhaps influenced by Ben's example, his mother and Uncle Ian are reconciled.
In a lovely reference to the book's title Ben, pleased to have re-established these family connections, makes room in his life for his new baby cousin.
Complex stories like mother-daughter relationships and the conflicts between two generations which seem to intensify during adolescence.
In Maude Casey's Over the Water, Mary, a fourteen year old Irish Catholic girl living with her family in London, is isolated from friends by her own anger and her mother's fear and bitterness of having had to leave her beloved Irish farm.
When the family returns to the farm for the summer, Mammy's strictness gets even worse and Mary's resentment deepens.
Over the course of the visit, as her grandmother and Aunt Nuala act as buffers between the two, Mary comes to appreciate the strong community that exists in the Irish countryside and to revel in its quiet beauty after the grimy, gray city landscape of London.
She also begins to how the loss of this place must affect her mother.
There is no easy resolution to the conflict between Mary and her mother, but as the end Mary begins to understand something of her mother's sacrifices.
The exquisitely written short stories explore mother-daughter relationships and other conflicts of adolescence.
How do children learn from literature?
© 2013 Devika Primić