Wednesday Afternoon Visits: October 4
More Lessons from Books

Life Lessons from Children's Books

This morning at Big A little a, Kelly linked to a couple of Guardian articles written in honor of the UK Children's Book Week. The first is by Lucy Mangan about why she still reads children's books, and what some of her favorites are (and why). The second is a discussion initiated by Michelle Pauli on the Guardian's Culture Vulture blog about which children's books taught you the biggest lifetime lessons. Kelly continued her post by making her own list. There is other discussion in the comments both on the Culture Vulture blog and on Big A little a.

This discussion inspired me to think about what life lessons I've learned from children's books. I've always felt that a big part of what makes up my own internal moral compass (in addition to what I learned from my parents and my childhood church) comes from what I've read in books. If you spend years and years reading grand adventure stories where people do the right thing against difficult odds, demonstrate loyalty to their friends and family members, and sometimes save the world, some of the ideals are simply bound to rub off. Here are a few specific examples, both profound and frivolous:

  • The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett): People can change, and sometimes adversity drives that process.
  • Anne of Green Gables (L. M. Montgomery): It's ok to be yourself, even if what's important to you is different from what's important to other people. Also, you have to do what you think is right. (Side note: it is the right ending to this particular book written at this particular time when Anne gives up her scholarship to stay with Marilla, even though today you wouldn't necessarily expect or want a bright girl to have to make that decision.)
  • Ballet Shoes (Noel Streatfeild): Sometimes you have to work hard for what you want.
  • Flight of the Doves (Walter Macken): It's important to be loyal to your family, and to protect your younger siblings.
  • The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien): It's important to be loyal to your friends, and to honor the commitments that you've made.
  • A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle): It's ok to be smart, and you will eventually find people who understand you.
  • Matilda (Roald Dahl), David Copperfield (Charles Dickens) and Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë): Sometimes adults aren't fair.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain): A mischievous boy can be very appealing.
  • And finally, series detectives like Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene), Trixie Belden (Julie Campbell), and The Famous Five (Enid Blyton) gave me a life-long appreciation for reading mysteries.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Thanks for inspiring this discussion, Kelly! It's nice to reflect back on these books, which have had such a major part in making me who I am today.