“WHAT A CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CLASS TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIFE”: ANGELA FRASER

THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER (IMAGE VIA KLRN)

Angela Fraser writes:

After taking a course in children’s literature this past semester, I realized that there are a lot of life lessons packed within the details of each story and the lives of the characters, many of which you hardly pick up on a kid.

As a child, when someone is reading you these books, the idea is that their lessons subtly find their way into your subconscious, that if you hear enough stories about people doing the right thing, the author will have, in a move straight out of “Inception,” taught you a moral lesson by allowing you to think that you realized it yourself. As a result, the literature that society prescribes for its children is incredibly valuable, as it teaches them the mores of a culture, from its heuristics and systems of justice, down to how you should treat your friends and even yourself.

What’s funny, though, is that a really powerful children’s book can teach even the adults reading it a lesson. Sometimes, the lesson comes from realizing just how layered with subtext these seemingly innocuous stories are—I mean, can we talk about the implications of the labor disparity between Aesop’s ant and grasshopper?

But sometimes, the value of re-reading these stories as adults comes from hearing a simple message with fresh ears. You “know” that you should work hard, treat others fairly and be true to yourself, but sometimes it helps to hear it, baldly, from a book made for children. And in my literature class, I did, dozens of times over. So, below is a condensed list of the obvious, yet not-so-obvious lessons I learned from studying novels written for children.

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