Many children’s books seem lighthearted and fun, however, lots of them also have deep meanings hidden within them. A great deal of literature for children contain lessons about great moral issues and human strengths and weaknesses. Read on to find the hidden meanings in your favorite children’s books.
There are a huge variety of children’s books and their meanings are as varied as the people who wrote them. But for many children’s writers, it is important to include some sort of message. Luckily, they do this in a clever, often funny or poignant way, rather than being boring and moralistic.
Children’s fiction often presents a situation and leaves us to make our own judgements. But in doing so, it allows children (and adults) to see life from someone else’s point of view and think about how we should live.
Here are 5 of my favorite children’s books.
1. Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
This deceptively simple children’s book gives me goosebumps. It’s about life’s journeys and the ups and downs we all experience. But its also about being in control of your own destiny.
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.”
This book doesn’t hide the fact that there will be dark and difficult days in life. But it reminds us that there will be excitement, joy and success, too. In fact, there is nothing quite like this book for making you feel excited about all that life has to offer, and I still turn to it to this day when life gets difficult.
2. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
Paddington is a heartwarming tale about a lost bear who is taken in by a kind family and gets into all sorts of scrapes. But the deeper message of this book is what it means to be an immigrant.
Paddington arrives at Paddington Station, which in reality saw a huge amount of immigrant movement in the 1950’s. The book was published in 1958, a time of great racial tension in London, including race riots. Though the family that adopts Paddington are kind, they aren’t really interested in his culture and don’t even use his Peruvian name, preferring to call him after the station they found him in!
In addition, Paddington befriends another refugee, from Nazi Germany and arrives wearing a tag just like those attached to children who were evacuated from London during the second world war.
All in all, this book teaches children what life is like when you are displaced from your home for whatever reason. It may also encourage us all to contemplate what such a loss might feel like.
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Many of Roald Dahl’s books feature characters that come to a sticky end because of their faults and character flaws. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a prime example.
In this story, several children win tickets for a tour of the factory with its owner Willy Wonka. But, the faults of all but Charlie lead them to a disastrous end. Veruca Salt is demanding and spoilt, Augustus Gloop is a glutton and Violet Beauregarde is jealous of anyone having anything she doesn’t.
Mike TeeVee is obsessed with technology, to such an extent that he misses out on all that the real world has to offer, which might be an even more pertinent message for today’s children.
But Charlie is kind and respectful and eventually wins the whole factory. So, perhaps the moral of the story is that being good does lead to happiness and success – or perhaps it is that it should.
4. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
In this story, a little engine must make it over a mountain to deliver toys. Being small and weak, the little engine doesn’t think he/she can make it. She asks the bigger engines for help, but they all refuse. Eventually, the little engine does make it over the mountain.
This story has many meanings including the value of hard work, courage and thinking positively. After achieving what she set out to do, the engine feels proud of herself and content with her efforts.
So, if your child, or you, need a little boost of self-confidence, then read this lovely story. In addition, it reminds children that being arrogant, conceited and refusing to help others are not attractive qualities!
5. The Little Prince by Antione de Saint-Exupery
As the little prince goes on his journey, he meets people that teach him, and us, important lessons about life. There are many lessons in this book but, for me, the most important ones are:
- You should reconnect with the creativity you had as a child before life and education taught all your imagination out of you.
- Being too serious leads to a very dull, lonely life. Trying to control things, rather than allowing them to be, inhibits your enjoyment of simple pleasures.
- We have to step outside our comfort zones in order to explore and find out what life has to offer.
- We must choose with our hearts, not always our heads. As the character of the Fox says “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
So, children’s books are a valuable part of our education because they allow us to have a variety of experiences. We can also learn a lot from revisiting children’s books as an adult because we often need a reminder of these lessons, too.
We’d love to hear your favorite children’s books. Please share them, and the reasons you love them, with us in the comments below.