Children’s literature as a means of social change

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“Children’s literature is the most authentic expression of the person , is the place where we can create unlimited and improve the world we live in , we create a future
accessible to all”

 All children, without exception, should have access to a literature adapted to their age group so as to reinforce their awareness of both their culture and their environment, allowing them to develop on emotional, linguistic and intellectual levels.

 The policy established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child should consider the possibility of expanding their legislative tools by specifically recognising the right to having literature for children. Article 17 in the Convention anticipates this in stating that countries “must encourage the media to circulate information and tools which are of social and cultural use to children,” as well as underlining that countries “will encourage the production and distribution of books for children.”

However, over the course of the years children’s literature has been overlooked and remains a vague genre. Children’s literature can be defined as an artistic creation with a clearly delineated audience in mind ̶ children. Conceptually, this literature should go further than school reading books or educational articles do, as it is a genre which aims to create very particular work. However, it would have to consist of a deviation from literary classics ̶ which are themselves extensions of what has preceded them ̶ and aim for a simpler language, addressing the individual needs of children, and shouldn’t be merely used to support the syllabus (as is often the case as outlined in syllabus handbooks). The aim is to create a form of expression adapted to children’s perspectives, but which embraces manifestations of culture such as theatre, poetry, cinema, and dance, while meeting the criteria of being both an artistic creation and of having children as its audience.

From its genesis, right up to the end of the 19th century, the evolution of children’s literature has been slower than other literary genres due to various historical, cultural and socio-economic factors. From the start of the 20th century, the idea of childhood as a decisive stage in character development took root, and with this the idea that disruptive behaviour can be prevented by adapting a person’s environment to suit their needs when growing up ̶ creating an environment full of happiness, love, and understanding, where a child is met with tolerance and respect from adults.

The emphasis on this line of reasoning is due in large part to relatively recent advancements made in human sciences, and due to the acknowledgement that children are neither miniature nor unformed adults but individuals in their own right. The development of children’s literature has been impaired by attitudes towards children formed in bygone eras, when the fundamental rights of children were not recognised.

It must be taken into consideration that when the Convention was created we were not aware of the important role literature plays in a child’s overall development. Thanks to certain pedagogical evidence, it is clearer to us now that this period of a person’s life forms the basis of the cultivation and development of an individual’s character. Thus we can finally set aside the notion that children’s literature is not important, is not ‘real literature’. Writing for children is by its very nature the most authentic expression of human ingenuity, and in the process of transforming reality it allows for boundless creativity to blossom. The ability to create fantasy, contrary to what the sceptics might think, is fundamental to the human condition. This ability allows us to escape a world which does not satisfy us, and exchange it for one which is in tune with our needs.

It is clear that children’s literature is opening up and that the genre has taken root in most western societies, where children’s rights are an important part of the collective conscience and the educational system. In the last ten years, the number of children’s books which are well written and well-illustrated has greatly increased, while authors and institutions responsible for the promotion of children’s literature have been duly celebrated.

In the 21st century this genre has been greatly affected by progress made in technology and by new political, economic and social trends which will to a large extent continue to determine the future of children’s literature. Following its stilted development in the past, children’s literature is finally well under way in the 21st century and we can expect that it will now flourish, especially in places where the economy is experiencing growth and the publishing of literature has been well promoted and supported.

Having access to a literature which has been more specifically adapted to stimulate the imagination and thus help to build character is as important as other fundamental rights. Following the principle that all children must be taken into account in a responsible manner by both the state and individuals, we must involve ourselves in this concern and create a future where literary and cultural works cease to be privileges reserved for certain social groups. On the contrary, these works must be promoted and recognised as necessary elements in the education of all children, who are essentially the architects of a free and democratic society.


La literatura infantil en el siglo XXI

Investigación en torno a la literatura infantil y juvenil – Xabier Etxaniz

Literatura Infantil: conceptos generales e historia Prof. Janet Ruiz

El derecho a la literatura infantil – Victor Montoya

Written by: Maria Elena Ramirez

Internal Reading: Sarah Lucek

Translated by Allegra FitzHerbert

Proofread by Louis Arighi