Why Children’s Literature?

That can be annoying for the people who packed the box. They want children to learn to read, for example, and of course they are right. The most important thing you learn at school is how to read. It’s important because we live in a literate society and in our society it’s as important to be able to read as it is to be able to walk and talk — if you can’t do these things, your ability to participate in society is restricted. But literature is bounding along ahead like the white rabbit, and before you know where you are, it’s over the hills and far away. Because children’s literature knows perfectly well that literacy is only a beginning, not an end. It’s the starting point, not the goal.

Literature soars way up into the air like a kite and makes us gasp. It’s held in place by a string wound around a spool, and the spool is maybe in the box. We have to have the spool of string, but the spool isn’t the interesting thing. It’s the kite that’s beautiful and buoyant and alive and that tugs for freedom.

— Siobhan Parkinson, “Flying Kites and Chasing White Rabbits: Children’s Literature in Functional Times,” The Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2011, p. 53

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