Adults Can Learn So Much From Children’s Lit

By Maria Orlandi

When I was little I did all of the usual kid things; Made mud-pies with my sisters, watched Disney cartoons, and created messes in the kitchen trying to bake cookies (that somehow always got burned). But no matter how busy and wild my days were, I would always end up hiding under my covers with a flashlight and a book.

There is something very magical about children’s literature. It expands your world at a time when you’re always eager for more to explore. Reading as a child showed me what it was like to sail a pirate ship with Peter Pan, explore the winters of Narnia, pretend to be a demi-god with Percy Jackson or time-travel with Meg Murry.

As a child, such books were exciting and magical, but we can experience those same feelings of awe and intrigue as adults. We just have to remember to take a break from our busy lives and return to children’s literature. Oftentimes, we forget what it was once like to be carefree and curious. Even though we may not have the time to go on our own spontaneous adventures, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a few minutes, or an hour, to immerse ourselves in a world where anything is possible.

Children’s literature relies on two important themes – empathy and adventure. As a child, these books taught me so much about the importance of having empathy for other individuals – for people I didn’t even know, and who weren’t technically real. I learned how to feel for different family structures, for kids going through loss or teenagers learning how to fall in love. There is a certain simplicity to how these books display empathy that is enormously beneficial for us as adults. Sometimes we just need something a little more straightforward – something that reminds us it’s okay to mess up, and there’s always more for us to learn. And in our lonelier moments, it is the books we read as children that remind us we are not alone and that we can find comfort in the unlikeliest places.

But if you’re not feeling that spontaneous yet, here are a few suggestions for where to start.

What was your favorite book as a child? Go back to that very one and see what it reminds you of.

Try out one of the more popular series: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is something that combines mythology, the importance of friendship, and some whirlwind adventures in one thrilling series.


The more classic A Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle will bring you back to an older time and immerse you in a world of time-travel and pre-teen angst. Her Austin Family Chronicles series is another that follows a girl through childhood and her teenage years as she learns how to navigate loss, her first loves, and the confusions of the bigger world.


An older classic is always a good bet. Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, or Anne of Green Gables are great places to start.  


Think of recent movies and what they were based on. The upcoming Mary Poppins revival might encourage you to check out the original books – a series of four volumes that will introduce you to much more Poppins’ sassiness. Or maybe you’re so excited for Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson that you just can’t wait any longer – grab a copy of the fairy-tale!


The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster will make you realize all the wonderful complexities of the English language – and all the games you can play with it.  


Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli will remind you how to be quirky and teach you to embrace all the oddities in yourself. Spinelli introduces you to the people who truly matter, and to those who will love you with all your quirks.


Anything by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman creates children’s literature unlike anything else – the stories are complex and oftentimes dark. Read Coraline or The Graveyard Book if you’re in the mood for something eerie


Now, if you find that you’d like a break from your life, or you feel yourself yearning for more adventure in your daily life, then don’t be shy – go to your local bookstore and march straight to the children’s section. Pick up the first book that catches your eye and give it a try. Ask a younger sibling, your niece or nephew, or any kids you know what they’re reading. Take their suggestions! 


Featured image courtesy of Juliana Blogs.