Recently, the Huffington Post published an article titled 9 Life Lessons Everyone Can Learn from these Beloved Classic Children’s Books. In this article, Amanda Scherker included titles like Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and noted poignant life lessons such as “Setting out on an adventure is thrilling, but coming home is even better” and “Don’t suppress your individuality for the sake of conformity” and “We give our lives meaning by helping others.” While we enjoyed reading through Scherker’s list of books and reflecting on how these books have impacted us as readers, we took special note that every book on Scherker’s list was fiction.
At a time when schools are making adjustments to align instruction to the Common Core, we have seen many incidents of over-adjustment. We have visited schools where teachers long for the days “when they used to read fiction” because “these days,” they are only reading “informational text“ with students. When we hear this, we remind educators that the Common Core calls for a balanced diet of literary and informational text and cite one of the very same reasons that Scherker notes in her article as an important reason why we cannot forego fiction in our Language Arts curricula: the very best children’s books help us understand the world around us.
Reading fiction allows us to experience the world vicariously. It allows us the opportunity to peer at life’s issues and events through multiple perspectives and try on an array of responses and personalities—all while nestled beneath the safety of our bed covers. There are many things that children will never have the opportunity to experience firsthand, yet, they long to understand. Reading fills this need.
To conclude, we wish to add a few more life lessons we have learned from children’s books and invite you to share your favorites as well!
1. It’s okay if things aren’t perfect. Effort leads to improvement.
In this poignantly simple story told by Peter Reynolds, Ramon draws and draws and draws until his brother insults one of his pictures. Afterward, Ramon is intent on making his drawings perfect and grows frustrated to discover that he doesn’t yet have the skill to do this. Eventually, he decides to quit drawing but luckily, his sister Marisol, his biggest fan, helps Ramon realize the beauty of “ish” which allows Ramon to begin drawing again and in turn, Ramon discovers that not only does he love to draw but he loves to write as well.
2. When you do something wrong or hurt someone’s feelings, apologize!
Lilly loves her teacher, Mr. Slinger…that is, until he takes away her movie star sunglasses, three shiny quarters, and her brand new purple plastic purse that plays a jaunty tune. Angry, she draws a mean picture and slips it into Mr. Slinger’s bag. After she has time to calm down, she regrets what she has done and realizes that in order to make it better, she must face Mr. Slinger and apologize.
3. You have to be strong to be different.
Leo is a lion and because he is a lion, it is expected that he be a hunter and intimidate other animals to gain their respect. However, Leo doesn’t want this for himself. Shunned by his family for wanting to be different, Leo goes out into the world and lives the life he imagines for himself. Leo’s actions earn him great respect among the animal community which becomes apparent when Leo is in peril. Eventually, his family realizes that just because Leo is different, he is every bit as strong as a lion should be.