Do you have a vision for the future of children’s literature? Who will be the drivers of change?
I was ecstatic to read in Short’s (2018) article that children’s literature is not becoming extinct, but rather trending upwards in sales; helped no doubt by the cult-like popularity of YA book series and the instant gratification of e-books. Short (2018) further identified a number of trends evident in children’s literature, the influence of visual culture and literature for a diverse society being the two main observations.
My vision for the future of children’s literature has definitely been shaped by this reading. Previously, I was of the opinion that literature with an intention to help shape good, kind, respectful individuals through explicit teaching or hidden morals were the kinds of literature I would be most likely to recommend. In reading the following excerpt from Broomhall, McEwan, and Tarbin (2017), I chuckled and noted it summed up my feelings entirely:
“Children’s books still contain moral lessons – they continue to acculturate the next generation to society’s beliefs and values. That’s not to say that we want our children to be wizards, but we do want them to be brave, to stand up for each other and to develop a particular set of values.”
However, Short challenged my perceptions in her line “The ultimate purpose of literature is not to teach something, but to illuminate what it means to be human and to make accessible the fundamental experiences of life – love, hope, loneliness, despair, fear, belonging” (Short, 2018, p. 291). Further, learning that children who miss being able to identify themselves within characters in children’s literature can either accept that their culture is a societal deficit, or otherwise reject literacy as relevant to their own lives (Bishop, 2003; as cited in Short, 2018) made me realise that I also want to create a culture of acceptance and tolerance of diversity and difference.
I believe that the role of the librarian can certainly be the driver for this change. Short, in her final reflections, states “We need to challenge market-driven decisions and provide critical perspectives, but we also need to put our money into books that make a difference in children’s lives. Too often we are followers of trends, rather than makers of trends” (Short, 2018, p. 295). Librarians can consciously create trends within their own communities which increase kindness, tolerance, and acceptance, as well as showcasing local and global literature that reflect culturally diverse experiences.
Broomhall, S., McEwan, J. & Tarbin, s. (2017, March 30). Once upon a time: A brief history of children’s literature. In The conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/once-upon-a-time-a-brief-history-of-childrens-literature-75205
Short, K. (2018). What’s trending in children’s literature and why it matters. Language Arts, 95(5), 287-298.