Why I Read Children’s Stories

Beauty and the Beast, illustration by Warwick Goble

In my late teens and early twenties (really up to age 25) I read adult books because that’s what adults do, right?

I was happy with most of them, though I found that I preferred more emotional and fantastical novels, and darker short stories.

Then came this past year, and I have been trying to figure out what gives me joy. This, most of all, in the books I read. I tried to read some of my more adult novels, long ones. Not only was my attention span shot because of all the reading I do for classics, but nothing in these stories was really compelling me. It’s for this reason, I believe, that I started reading scary stories — they were the only ones that could keep me going until the end.

Then one day this past year, I was watching a Youtuber who talks about writing, books, and discusses the history of fairytales (her name is Jen Campbell and she is fabulous, go check her out). I hadn’t read fairy stories in a really long time, and I am not counting my last reread of the Fellowship of the Ring, which is definitely a fairy story. By watching her videos on fairytales I remembered my fascination with them, how folklore and myth (often the dark sides of both) intertwined to make the stories we all know and love today. And most of the time these are retold in manners that would cater more to children than adults, both in books and in film. I started wondering to myself why these stories interested me much more than most “adult” stories, besides the fact that they are fantastical.

After much thought I realized that fairy stories and folktales are simples stories with complicated meaning and history. Adult stories are often complicated stories with simple meaning and history. I had missed the deep meaning in the simplicity of the emotions, words, and deeds of the characters of these fairy stories. There are lessons in these stories which are sorely lacking in many adult stories (though certainly not all).

I decided to go back to reading stories like these. I went back to the tales and myths I used to love as a kid or teen, and even new ones like Hilda (both the books and tv show).

I feel a sense, like all the young heroes of these simple tales, of wanting to know all the world’s secrets, like there is something magical waiting to be discovered, if only I would give myself the patience to see it.

By reading these books I am letting myself be more patient. I am not as frustrated when reading them as I am reading other adult novels. I also count YA novels in the category of children’s and fairy stories, as the heroes in them are so similar.

Like these heroes, I want to learn to be part of the world I am in, likely to face my own sets of trials. Maybe I will grow from this. In any case reading these has brought me joy, and I think that’s what counts most of all.

MA in Classics: Latin poetry as well as myth and folklore. Writes mostly poetry and book reviews. Part-time Latin tutor: https://latinbyabby.wordpress.com/

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