The Evolution of Children’s Literature

Last month it was announced that the beloved children’s author Enid Blyton’s series The Faraway Tree was getting its own film adaptation. The news came after a Famous Five film adaptation was announced in the summer, perhaps signally a revitalisation of Blyton’s vast and much-loved canon of children’s fiction.

The resurrection of Blyton’s work — which was a staple of children who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, but which has rather fallen out of favour with kids today — comes at a time when children’s fiction and young adult fiction has come under intense scrutiny. There have been many think-pieces all over the internet arguing about how what kids today are reading is destroying their intellect, and how they should be made to read better written, more challenging books, and how books written before were so much better. Such ideas are, to me, pointless and inane, much like how grumpy, middle-aged people like to wax nostalgic about the good old days when kids went out to play instead of spending all their time glued to computer screens. Change is an inevitable part of every aspect of society, and it would be wrong — even arrogant — to assume that the time you grew up in was the golden era and all subsequent eras pale in comparison.

Sure, children might not be reading Enid Blyton anymore (who, ironically, was hailed as a bad author for kids at one point). But they’re still reading, and that’s all that should matter. Moreover, with the rapidly changing world, the things that children find interesting in fiction have changed. No longer enticed by a gang of kid detectives solving mysteries, today’s kids are reading about young spies equipped with the latest gadgets solving global conspiracies. Instead of reading stories about fantasy creatures living in trees, they would rather read about demi-god kids battling monsters from Greek mythology. Worrying about what children are reading and trying to get them to read what you want is a sure way to turn them off from reading. As someone who was an avid reader as a child and who has several little readers in her family, I can testify to the fact that kids are very savvy judges of what they should or should not be reading. They are, in fact, as capable as adults of judging what kinds of books they are interested in. As a big fan of Enid Blyton, I hope the new films based on her work awaken the new generation’s interest in her wonderful stories. But if they don’t, they still have great books to get lost in.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2014.

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