Why They Shouldn’t Be Called ‘Children’s Books’

Book covers of 'Love You Forever', 'The Giving Tree' and 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie' on a cream background with animals and leaves illustrations.'

When I was young, bedtime stories seldom happened. The image of a peaceful evening was impossible for my family and instead, when the sky darkened, an onset of reprimanding barks to finish our homework and demands for toys to be picked up ensued. 

My mother was often too busy taking care of chores and my father, well, reading just wasn’t his thing. The only time a bedtime story was read to me was when my older sisters’ would feel like it — which wasn’t very often.

It’s hard to believe why they never liked to do it because now, as an adult, I love to read to children. One of my favorite times of the day is when my niece, with her finger settled on her chin in contemplation, walks over to her bookshelf. 

After a few long seconds, she finally picks a book and lugs it over to me, and together we delve into the story we’ve read countless times before. For us, storytime is a space for learning, discussion, and immersion.

It was through these moments I realized, reading children’s books doesn’t have to stop when you are an adult. A common misconception many people have is that they are too old to be reading children’s books. 

They don’t need pictures to visualize. They’ve already learned all the morals of the stories. The plots don’t pertain to them anymore. They’re too easy to read.

However, when you take on this mindset, you are missing out on some of the most vital life lessons that can be found in books. When you come across a great children’s book, with its heartwarming message and fun storytelling, it’s like striking gold. The messages within are universal, simple, and pure. It nourishes your sense of being and will sustain your life.

Children’s books are meant to teach life lessons to children, but why can’t they teach you too? As adults, we think that by learning something once, we don’t have to come back to it again — but that’s completely false. Sometimes, we need to be reminded to be grateful for the small things in life and to be patient with others.

Here are some examples of how children’s books with simple messages can pertain to all phases of life. All stories, from heartwarmingly gentle to adventurously silly, can convey life lessons if you know how to look at them.

Children’s Books

  1. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (Author) and Sheila McGraw (Illustrator)

Love You Forever is a timeless story about a mother’s indefinite love for her meddlesome baby boy. As time passes and her toddler son grows into a man, her love for him never dies despite the trouble he causes and the distance that naturally occurs with time. 

For children, this book shows how much a mother loves her child no matter what age you are or what trouble you cause. It illustrates how an abstract feeling such as love can (and will) look different as you grow. 

For adults, while it’s a story to remind you of a parent’s love as well, it’s additionally a story about the full circle of life and to be gracious and appreciative towards your parents. The mother’s recurring lullaby may even remind you of the nostalgia of your own childhood.

2. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree is about a boy’s friendship with a tree. Despite the boy’s never-ending demands, the tree gives, and gives, and gives, all that she can but never wants anything in return. 

For children and adults, it’s a story to show how it’s important to give, be grateful for what you have been given, and not expect anything in return. It shows that perhaps you don’t need the things you wanted after all, and instead, cherishing your loved ones and cultivating relationships are more important.

3. If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff (Author) and Felicia Bond (Illustrator)

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is a fun story about how if you give a mouse a cookie, it’ll snowball into a multitude of aftereffects. For children, it’s a playful story about consequences and actions. 

For adults, it illustrates how a string of events can seem perfectly reasonable — if you have a cookie, of course, you’ll want a glass of milk! — while simultaneously, nonsensical. It’ll remind you of the power of cause and effect and make you second guess doing something in the first place.

As people age, it’s natural to not want to go back to books that aren’t challenging or not intended for your age group. Readers get excited when they begin to read picture books, then to middle-grade books, then to YA books, and eventually, to adult books. 

However, children’s books are not only for children, they’re for everyone. The plots in the books may not completely mirror your life phase, but the messages within them apply to all stages of life. Just as how we’re trying to teach young minds important lessons, children’s books can serve as a reminder to adults as well.

Stuck for what to read next? Check out our Reading Recs page. And if you’d like to support our work, please consider making a donation via our Donations page. We’re trying to raise money for paid commissions, so we can support and work with more writers from underrepresented backgrounds, who cannot afford to write for free. Thank you for reading!

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