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.”