In our modern world books play a very important role. They help people understand not only where they live but also who they are. Books were created long time ago and firstly they were not even printed, but were put on the sheets of parchment or on the walls and on clay planks. The years passed and books were changing as well. They became more popular all over the world; it was a sign of wealth to have even a couple of books or a home library. Rich people were striving for not only buying a new book, but making their family read it. In the last two centuries, reading books became a kind of a hobby: people were buying books, reading them, discussing in literature clubs, exchanging books. More and more libraries were opened not only at schools, colleges or universities, but it concerns public libraries, where everyone could come and take a book they would like to read.
Unfortunately, with the development of modern technologies, old paper books became more unpopular; people prefer to read an electronic book. Though, the situation is not as tragic as it may seem, because there are books for children, which are still read in their paper variant. This research is aimed to find out whether books for children are worth printing and publishing; what is the difference between books for children of different ages and whether modern books teach children only violence, disrespect and bad behavior (they say, modern movies have such impact on children).
For children, as well as for adults, there are different kinds of books; the difference is that there are no clearly distinguished genres, as in literature for adults. There are eight kinds of books for children:
- picture books (short stories, with a lot of illustrations in the book);
- rhythmic books, nursery rhymes and lullabies (these books rhyme, which is easier for children to memorize them);
- folklore (different kinds of stories, legends, myth, which are aimed to tell the everyday life of the ancestors);
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- fairy tales;
- fantasy (fantasy worlds attract children, they always worry about the main character, especially if there is a struggle of good and evil in the book);
- first books (stories which introduce little kids to the basis of the world. These books are mostly made of clothes, wood or plastic);
- Concept books;
- Issue books (is a relatively new kind of children’s book. Issue books highlight such problems of the modern society as violence, abuse, divorce and so on).
In this research I will consider fantasy books, especially The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Both books are very popular nowadays, although children prefer to watch a movie, instead of reading books. I will not take all the parts of these books for my analysis; I will analyze only the first parts The Lord f the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In my opinion, these books may have a great impact on a child’s life, not only in terms what is good and what is bad, but also in terms of making friends and relations with other people as well as with the world around. One may say that these books are close in the content to legends and myths, and I will agree with that. In this paper I will try to show some connection between them, and will try to explain what is better for children to read: classical or modern literature.
During the research process, I was searching for the information not only in the Internet, but also went to the library for children and observed them reading books. Moreover, I was precise about the kinds of books they chose for reading. Besides, I have read a lot of research papers about literature for children and the psychological impact of what a child reads on his or her future. I have also read all the books in The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series and made an analysis. While making this research, I have made a list of books for children of elementary and intermediate school levels. These books I would recommend to read to all the children, because they represent not only different epochs, but all eight kinds of literature for children. Besides, I have made a short poll with children and their parents about books they read. There were only three questions for parents (Do you prefer your child to read a paper or an electronic book? Do you prefer to buy books or to take them in the library? What is the most favorite kind of books of your child?). Children were asked exactly the same questions. There were 100 children and 100 adults responding. According to the results, parents and children have different opinions, which can make us worry about parents, because if now they do not know what their child likes to read, they will not know about his or her problems in the future, in their teen age.
Everybody knows that at the beginning of the 21st century such movies as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings were very popular; but not everybody knows that the situation with these books was awful. Children preferred to spend their free time in front of the TV-set, watching movies and different TV-programs. Later, with the development of the Internet, children started to spend most of their free time in front of the monitors. But later, the situation has changes again; and this time books took their first place in the list of preferences. After watching the movies of Harry Potter’s or Frodo’s adventures, children became curious about what will happen next. That is why they started to read books. In the end, these books became bestsellers all over the world. The question is not whether these books are popular and bring a lot of money to their authors, but how they influence the minds of little children.
The first book of Harry Potter series was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In this book a reader gets acquainted with main characters and their lives before entering Hogwarts. The reader sees how hard it was for Harry to live with his aunt and uncle, and how happy he became when he got the letter that he was admitted. On the railway station, where he took the train to Hogwarts, he met the Weasleys who helped him to find the way. From the very beginning of the story, the reader, especially a child, learns to help the others and to be kind. In the next scene, when they are already in the train, Ron Weasley explains Harry Potter the system of education and mentions about four main faculties in Hogwarts. At that particular moment Hermione joins them. Since this very beginning, it is obvious that they will become friends. Harry Potter was happy, because Hermione and Ron were his first friends, they were different, they did not humiliate him, as uncle and cousin did, and they were kind to him and did not ask much about his scar. Later, when they were allocated to different faculties, Harry Potter tried to protect their new-born friendship and demanded to be in Gryffindor. As seen, this episode teaches not only children, but also adults to keep their friendship, to keep friends, because it is very important not to remain alone. It is more difficult to live with no friends in this world, because friends will always help and support, as it happened with Harry when he was fighting with Voldemort; Ron and Hermione helped Harry to win that battle. In all the books about Harry Potter their friendship is tested by relations with boyfriends or girlfriends by time, by distance, by some arguing or suspecting between them, but nevertheless, their relations remain strong and it seems that nothing can destroy this strong connection between them.
Almost the same situation the reader may see in the Lord of the Rings series. The difference is that the main characters are not people: they are hobbits, elves, dwarves, orcs, and just some humans. Besides, instead of Harry Potter series, the action in The Lord of the Rings takes place in the Middle-Earth. First thing the reader notices is that hobbits do not like to leave their homes, but there are also exception, like Bilbo Baggins or his nephew Frodo. There are a lot of rumors about those two in the Shire and the Bree, but nevertheless, they live how they think they should. Bilbo and Frodo only seem to be ordinary hobbits; instead they hide their personality not to be judged by others. In the last book of the trilogy, the reader sees that it is not so bad to be extraordinary and not like the others, it helped not only destroy the Ring, but also make new friends and travel a lot.
When Bilbo has gone, Frodo inherited the Ring. The wizard Gandalf warned him not to use it, but Frodo did not listen to him. Moreover, from time to time, when he wanted to escape or to avoid an unpleasant talk, he put on the Ring and disappeared. When Gandalf appeared again, it was almost too late, because Frodo and the Ring were already hunted by the dark servants of Sauron, who made and owned the Ring. This time Gandalf ordered Frodo to go to the elves kingdom and wait there for him. At the beginning, Frodo was supposed to go alone, but his gardener Sam overheard their talk and asked Gandalf to let him go with his master. This scene may be very touching and shows devotion not only to the master, but to his friend, because Sam and Frodo were friends since their childhood. Gandalf allowed him to go, but on the borders with the Bree they met Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brendybuck, who were also old friends of Frodo. They were curious where Frodo goes and jealous why he takes Sam and not them with him. Therefore, Gandalf allowed them to go. Firstly they both complained about the trip and that they were hungry and far away from home, but on the other hand, they were happy to go along with Frodo to the unknown lands. they were excited to meet elves and dwarves. When Frodo, Sam, Marry and Pippin arrived to the elves’ kingdom, they were treated kindly and during the meeting Marry and Pippin showed their devotion to Frodo, when they asked to take them, because they did not want to live happily with elves when they knew that Frodo may have been in danger. These episodes teach not only children, but also adults, to keep their relations with friends, to help each other.
At the end of the first book, Boromir died, which was a great stress for the others of the Fellowship. Nevertheless, the journey continues, the new adventures wait for the friends, but the most important is that they have each other and common aim. They will go to that goal, loosing people, facing dangers, but in the end, their friendship will be saved and the Ring will be destroyed. The last episode of the first book teaches the readers to go through all the problems to the aim, to do everything to achieve the goal. Sometimes it is difficult, it seems that the whole world is against, but the point is that only weak people break under the circumstances.
These two books were based on the experience of the ancestors, using myths and legends. It is not so clear what myths and legends were used, but, on the other hand, all the known legends and stories teach people to be kind to each other, make friends, help each other and go straight to the aim. One should remember Robin Hood or the knights who helped not only each other, but those who needed their help. Nothing has changed since that time, people still need help and friends. The difference is that in the modern world people need it more. The time demands more kindness, more politeness, and more pure unhidden feelings. According to the analysis made in this research, the conclusion is that there is only a slight difference between phantasy world, described in modern books, and legends and myths of the ancient world, but I think that children prefer to read books about Harry Porter rather than about Robin Hood.
This diagram shows what kinds of books are prefered by children of elementary and intermediate school levels:
6-first books (as one may see, children of that age do not read first books);
The next question in the poll was whether children prefer paper books or electronic ones. Both parents (52%) and children (88%) agreed that paper books are better. As for the way to get book, the points of view were totally different. Parents prefer to go to the library with their child and choose a book there, perhaps, with the advice of a librarian (67% of parents do that), but children prefer to visit a bookstore and choose a new, unread book, which should not be given back to the library (55%). I want to say that all books teach us to be kind and friendly, help each other and those who need help, strive to become better. There are a lot of books that can help children develop such qualities, but I want to give the list of books which to my mind help the most.
5-7 years old:
- Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
- Today I will fly and My friend is sad by Mo Willens
- Muster Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson, the winner of the Book Award
- Winnie the Pooh by A. Milne
- Alice in Wonderland by L. Carroll
- Mr. Gum and Biscuit billionaire by Andy Stanton
- Boy genius of the Stone age by Raymond Briggs
- The Iron man by Ted Hughes
- The worst witch by Jill Murphy
8-10 years old:
- Harry Potter and… (all the books) by Joanne Rowling
- The Lord of the Rings (all the books) by John R.R. Tolkien
- Mockingbird” by Kathryn Eskine
- Charley and the chocolate factory by Roald Dahl
- Lord of the flies by William Golding
- Growth of the soil by Knut Hamsun
- The night swimmers by Betsy Byars
- Homesick: my own story by Jean Fritz
- The rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
- Sister Wolf by Ann Arensberg
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