What is the definition of children’s literature?

Well, let me see.  What do I think?

Having read a few articles over the last week there seems to be a vague consensus on what constitutes literature for children or children’s literature.  (You see how I phrased that before – even that is contentious you know!)

Here’s how I see it:

  • Children’s literature in the modern age is literature written with an idea that a child might read it – perhaps not the sole audience but as the main audience.
  • Reflects their lives, outlook, perspective and view of the world in all its nascent, evolving and naive glory.
  • Enhances their understanding of their world by providing new perspectives, view, information, description, vocabulary, expression – it is as Cairney (1994) states “Transformative” in some way.
  • Enjoyable – it is literature that is enjoyed by children – this might conflict with the first point in this list – some literature specifically written for children is despised by that particular group, similarly children do sometimes have a predilection for pushing the boundaries and searching willfully for literature that is not particularly aimed at them but then absorbed and adopted thus.
  • High literacy standard (well it should have) – but again let’s be frank the number of children who ‘inhaled’ the  ‘Twilight’ series proves that sometimes the enjoyment factor and the quality factor can be mutually exclusive – but I would still put Twilight as children’s or tween literature.
  • Accessible – these days it should and is available in different forms – digital, audio etc but also in the use of language and syntax.
  • Meaningful – it should somehow be meaningful to the reader.  Even Twilight gave meaning to some!
  • Learning – it provides some form of learning – either of the human condition, information or provides and understanding of another view point, way of life or experience.

There – I am not sure if these ideas are correct but if I could write a book or text for children and I managed 50% of that list I would be pretty pleased with myself.  I think of all the children’s literature that I have read as an adult and it all fits into those categories (and more).

It is a difficult thing to pin down – we are all so heavily invested in children’s literature as educators it is hard to objectively see that criteria that would exclude some texts.

Thank you and goodnight.


About kblaich

I live in Melbourne, Australia, have one lovely husband, one delightful daughter, one bouncy son, lots of pets (2 dogs and 3 cats) and work at a primary school part time. I am currently studying my Masters in Teacher Librarianship through Charles Sturt University.
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