Are Modern Classic Children’s Books Becoming Less Relevant?

The books they love might be the same ones you loved when you were their age. Above, students read books in a public library in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2012.

Photo by Mandy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images

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Answer by Marti LaChance:

If classic children’s books are read less frequently today, it is because parents worry about topical relevance.

Perhaps parents fear their kids won’t like to read if stories don’t mimic their lives, which is an incredibly misplaced fear. A good story is a good story!

As a child I devoured the Grimm’s and Anderson’s fairy tales—stories that are arguably irrelevant to anyone born after 1800. I loved Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and Alice in Wonderland, too. (I wasn’t so wild about Beezus and Ramona, though. Ramona is just too damn irritating.) And Nancy Drew, come on! She is still leading the exciting, independent life girls crave.

In short, classic books tend to be classic because they address fundamental human experiences and desires. Judy Blume’s books portray kids who wonder about religion, death, sex. Beverly Cleary’s books include wonderfully timeless circumstances, such as adopting a cat from a box at the grocery store, a dad who’s lost his job, or getting and keeping a best friend. Even popcorn books like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys appeal to kids’ desire to be independent and important.

Furthermore, many old-fashioned books have an appeal all their own. The Little House books, for example, are incredibly realistic portrayals of pioneer life. For younger kids, books like Little Bear and Where the Wild Things Are have wonderful illustrations and charming originality that kids still like.

Not all stories age well. And certainly, works by new authors can be as wonderful as the so-called classics. But parents: Do not be surprised if the modern books you select, with all their 21st-century relevance, address the fundamental themes we so adored in our childhoods.

Are modern classic children book series (Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume) becoming less and less relevant for children today, despite being beloved by their parents’ and grandparents’ generation? originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora: