One of the ideas brought up in the Keywords discussion of “Children’s Literature” is the struggle in defining a true children’s literature when there is no form of literature written by children, for children. Thus, the idea of a power struggle within the relationship between author and reader comes up. It is true that nearly all the books that we tend to classify as “children’s literature” have been written by adults, for the children who will read them. In order for a children’s book to enter the hands of a child, it must be written by an adult, deemed acceptable and published by some set of adults, purchased by an adult, and then presented to the child. Children therefore have little control over the books that they end up consuming, so this raises the question of whether it is fair to say that the category of “children’s literature” belongs to children.
The fact that stories have to pass through the hands of so many adults before they reach the child makes one wonder if what we call “children’s literature” is an accurate depiction of what children would be reading, had we given them full reign over what this category would be defined by. We choose literature that we feel our children will both benefit from and enjoy, but it is difficult to know how successful we are, especially since the idea of what constitutes proper reading material for children has changed dramatically over time. In the end, it seems quite presumptuous to suggest that we are doing children a great favor by giving them some category of literature all for themselves, when we have almost never taken into consideration what the literature might look like if we sat down with them and allowed them to pour their deepest thoughts and ideas onto the pages of a book. I do not mean to suggest that children’s literature is meaningless unless children have full control over it – on the contrary, I think that there is a lot of merit in giving them books with qualities that have been shown to engage and educate them. However, it seems to me that as long as children have their literature filtered by so many adults before they receive it, trying to imply that this is a category of literature belonging completely to children is an unfair oversimplification.