I took Children's Literature last semester. The class should have come with a disclaimer: Warning. I will probably change you.
I don't remember ever seeing a picture book as young child. In fact, the first book I remember reading was Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I was in the 4th grade, and the book was recommended after the movie that 4th grade girls everywhere are shown in order to explain their impending maturation. In 6th grade, as my own parents were divorcing, my teacher recommended It's Not the End of the World. These are the only books I remember reading prior to age 20. (I glanced through Cliffs Notes of required reading in high school.) When I was twenty, I read the Pelican Brief, and that was only because I was bored stiff at work and someone had left the book lying around. I enjoyed the book, and subsequently read all of John Grisham's other legal thrillers.
My reading in the last nine years has been almost exclusively Christian stuff - and most of that has been for the sole purpose of edification and spiritual growth. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I've come to the conclusion that there's much more to reading than just learning.
My Children's Lit class changed me. First of all - I discovered illustrations. In all the years that I've been reading to my kids, I've focused solely on the words. Now I'm obsessed with beautiful books and pictures. In kids' books, the pictures tell half the story! Note to self - stop and smell the roses ... er, look at the pictures.
And fiction is delicious! Historic fiction remains a favorite, as I can't help but love a book that draws on history and truth and teaches valuable lessons ... but fantasy is kinda fun too. (I'm coming around... "Kinda fun" is huge progress for a serious, no-nonsense, realistic person like myself.)
As soon as the semester finished, I'd committed myself to reading some classics. Somehow it feels like I simply haven't lived if I don't know the first thing about Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, and the like...
I started with my friend Cori's recommendation - To Kill a Mockingbird. Wow. It was LONG ... compared with the 30+ children's books I spent the last 16 weeks reading! During the first half of the book, I kept thinking that it was good but would it ever get to the point? But the second half was riveting and I couldn't put it down, and I couldn't help but smile every time it tied back to an "unnecessary detail" provided in the first half. Harper Lee, you outdid yourself. What a remarkable story. And, Cori, you should have named one of your KIDS after Atticus ... not just your Elf on the Shelf! What a man.
I'm headed out on a road trip to see cousins tomorrow... I will have at least ten hours of time in the car alone, and I'm going armed with two audio books - A Raisin in the Sun and Anne Frank Remembered. I simply cannot wait to "read" while driving.