Is this the ‘golden age’ of children’s literature?

Kettlemag, Laura Noakes, children's literature
Written by Laura Noakes

I am a 22 year old book addict, and I have a confession: I prefer to read children’s books. I can’t pinpoint why I like them so much, maybe it’s the wide-eyed main characters or the coming-of-age narratives, but I LOVE them.  And it seems that I’m not the only one; sales of children’s books rose 11% in 2014. It’s becoming less taboo to whip out The Chronicles of Narnia on the train, it’s not embarrassing to admit you read the Harry Potter series at least once a year, and I for one am not ashamed when the majority of the books I buy are in the 8-12 section in the bookshop. It’s official: children’s books are cool. They aren’t something to be scorned at by the literary elite any longer. They are on trend, in fashion and all the rage at the moment, and the sales are booming.

Is there really such a thing as a ‘golden age’ of children’s literature?

For my generation, the generation that grew up on Harry Potter, the reason for children’s books popularity maybe a form of nostalgia for our childhood – an attempt to recapture the magic when that letter from Hogwarts seemed to be a distinct possibility. But for other generations, there were other ‘Harry Potters’ – for my dad’s generation it was the Moomintrolls.  For others, it was Enid Blyton, or Judy Blume, or Lewis Carroll. So is there really such a thing as a golden age of children’s literature, or do children’s books just have a universal appeal?

I personally think that it’s unfair to label this rise in sales as a golden age, or a trend. For me, trends are something fleeting, something in one minute and gone the next. This description doesn’t accurately describe why more adults are reading children’s fiction. There are a ton of reasons why adults read middle-grade and young adult novels – for me, whenever I read a book that I loved as a child, it brings me right back to where I was at that moment – I fall in love with the characters and story all over again, and I get lost in the book. It’s almost the same reason why I read middle-grade books that I didn’t read as a kid – for me, middle grade novels tend to catch something magical – that age between childhood and adulthood that is so confusing and so exciting at the same time.

Staples of our literature

So although I am THRILLED that kid-lit is getting its moment in the sun, as it rightly deserves, I think we do the talented authors of children’s fiction a disservice when we put their success down to a ‘trend’. Instead, the thriving nature of children’s literature is down to talented authors, hard-working passionate agent, and publishers, amazing librarians, teachers, book bloggers and most of all, the readers, whether they are 10 or 100, for reading and sharing books that they love. Children’s novels, from the latest releases to the old classics, have always been staples of our literature. Maybe the boom in children’s novels sales has nothing to do with this being the ‘golden age’ of children’s literature, but all to do with the public eating up well written novels that just happen to be aimed at children.