Literary Miscellanea

Literary Miscellanea: C.S. Lewis Praises Children’s Books and Fairy Tales


In 1946, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay called On Three Ways of Writing for Children in which he defended his career as both a children’s author and a fantasy writer. In the essay, he discussed two good approaches and one bad approach to writing for children. He had a lot to say to adult critics who routinely denigrated other adults for reading children’s books. Lewis also defended the inclusion of dark material in children’s fantasy books. This essay is as relevant today as it was in 1946. I have always valued children’s literature. In fact, I have had a life long dream/goal to write a children’s book . Recently, I went to my local public library and checked out a Newbery Award winning novel (Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi) and a picture book which I had been eyeing for months (The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger by Timothy Basil Ering). Every time I walk into the children’s section, I always feel a bit nervous because, other than the librarian, I’m the only childless adult in the room. But yesterday, as I browsed through the picture books, I realized that there is nothing to be nervous about. There is nothing wrong with reading children’s (or YA) books. I think it is important for all readers to read widely. Reading books that are written for different age groups is valuable. We live in a society, and society is made up of individuals of different age groups. If adults only ever do things (read books, watch films, play games) that are meant exclusively for adults, how will they be able to understand the children around them?

Lewis was convinced that literary critics who criticized other adults for reading children’s books were themselves childish:

“Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development.”

Here is the essay.


2 thoughts on “Literary Miscellanea: C.S. Lewis Praises Children’s Books and Fairy Tales”

  1. Haha,you’re not the only one to feel nervous!
    In supermarkets,in the ‘magazine area’,I’m the only adult who is drawn to those comics about Donald Duck,Uncle Scrooge and Mickey! Generally I feign reading something more adult,and when nobody else is in the reading section,I go to the comics! 😀

    But honestly,I think children literature is as important as adult literature.On my shelves,stand not only,among others,the Borgess,the Kafkas,the Tolstoys and the Dostoevskys,but also Peter Pan,The Arabian Nights and the Grimm Fairy Tales.I’m besides eyeing a lovely set of Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass.Coincidence wants it that together with this set I’m buying Screwtape Letters,which is from none other than …. C.S.Lewis! 🙂

    In the future,I wish to collect the Fairy from Perrault and Andersen too! I must also read Charlotte’s Web!

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one! Yay for Disney 🙂
      Your shelves sound like mine. A mixture of adult and children’s books. I have Gulliver’s Travels, Dante’s Divine Comedy (2 books translated by one person and 1 book translated by another), Sherlock Holmes Vol I and II, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web, E. Nesbit’s Fairy Stories, Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard, and 4 picture books.

      I bought Charlotte’s Web for 50 cents recently and am still surprised it did not win the Newbery Award. Oh well. The committee is not always right.

      I love The Screwtape Letters. Definitely read the dedication page (it might be the preface). On that page, Lewis writes a letter to Tolkien that I think is important to read.

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