Classic Children’s Literature

By Tab Olsen

You might be wondering why a high school student would want to take a course in children’s literature. After all, you figure we’ve grown out of reading those stories a long time ago! Well, I took a children’s lit course in high school and it was one of my favorite classes. 🙂

For one thing, it’s a pretty fun and easy course if you need an extra language arts or literature credit. It’s interesting to learn more about the books and authors that you loved when you were a kid. A course in children’s literature is also a good choice for students who plan to major in English, or would like to write children’s books someday, or want to become a librarian or teacher, or if you simply have younger siblings who are always asking you to read to them.

Thousands of children’s books are produced each year, but only a rare few become classics. Many modern children’s books are boring and uninspiring. Some are perverted, and others are just plain bad. A lot of people feel it doesn’t matter what kids read, as long as they’re reading something. But wouldn’t it be so much better to read great literature that sets a good example?

Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” This is a wonderful standard to follow when choosing books to read!

Not only do such books prepare young minds to fall in love with virtue, they also teach us how to see the world more clearly and delight in its beauty. And that’s probably why so many readers are naturally drawn to the timeless classics.

Classic children’s literature helps readers understand the truth about the world and human nature. Those who read and study these great works will not only encounter vivid characters and beautiful language, but also uncover profound moral lessons.

The best children’s books transcend all time periods and speak to readers of all ages and backgrounds. So the simplest way to judge whether it’s a good children’s book is to ask whether it can be enjoyed by everyone.

Hillsdale’s newest FREE online course explores eight books that are vital to the formation of a child’s character. What’s more, these stories are worthy of being read, discussed, re-read, and quoted by every member of the family.

In this course, Dr. Daniel B. Coupland and Dr. David M. Whalen examine the following classic children’s stories:

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Snow Queen
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Aesop’s Fables
  • Winnie-the-Pooh
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Treasure Island
  • The Wind in the Willows

If you didn’t get around to reading all of these books when you were younger, now is the time to do it! They also make great read-aloud stories.

Dr. Whalen is a Professor of English at Hillsdale. He obtained his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in English from the University of Kansas. Dr. Coupland, an associate professor of Education at Hillsdale College, has a Ph.D. in curriculum and teaching from Michigan State University.

Dr. Coupland says, “As a friend once told me, good teaching is the overflow of a full life. In my classes, I therefore try to fill my students’ lives with as much goodness, truth, and beauty as I can.”

Want to get a literature credit out of the way this summer? Rediscover the joy and importance of classic children’s literature with Hillsdale’s newest online course!

Start Learning Today – it’s FREE!

What types of activities and courses have you used as electives? Leave a comment and we may include yours in a future column!

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