When I was little, right around this time of year, with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up, I remember asking my parents rather indignantly, “but when is CHILDREN’S Day?!?!”
“EVERY day is Children’s Day,” they would reply wearily. (Mom and Dad, you were right!)
I didn’t know it when I was little, but countries around the world DO celebrate “Children’s Day” at various points throughout the year. Officially, the UN has recognized Universal Children’s Day as November 20. But this time of year, several Spanish-speaking countries, as well as the US, celebrate their own version:
Bolivia: April 12
Colombia: April 26 (2014—last Saturday of April)
Mexico: April 30
Spain: May 11 (2014—2nd Sunday of May)
Ecuador & Nicaragua: June 1
USA: June 8 (2014—2nd Sunday of June)
(There are others, but I’ve just noted the ones that are around this time of year.)
So let’s take a minute during our celebration of literature this month to take a trip down memory lane to the literature of our own childhoods.
Now, a curious thing happens when you ask people about the books that were most important to them when they were children. They usually take a minute to think, and you can see them sifting through old memories, digging back through all the “serious” stuff, … and then, their eyes light up with a certain joy when they remember that special book—or those special books—that touched their childhood. It’s like it isn’t only the BOOK that is stored in their memory—there seems to be so much more that has fused itself into the memory of the book.
One of those books for me is Matilda. I remember being in the third grade when it was published. I was exactly the SECOND person EVER to check it out from the school library—my best friend at the time being the first, about which I was supremely miffed, as only an eight-year-old girl can be. I can still remember feeling so impressed by how thick the book was; the new, not-yet-loosened up hardback cover; the dust jacket that would probably not last a month in an elementary school library. I DEVOURED that book, and it was probably one of the first books to give me a “book hangover”—that feeling that you are actually IN the book plot, and the subsequent extreme disillusionment when you realize you aren’t. And the thing I remember most clearly is that for weeks afterwards, I tried staring with all my might at the chalk in the classroom, just in case Roald Dahl hadn’t really made up the idea of telekinesis by misunderstood eight-year-olds. (Side note to my third-grade teachers: Sorry! Thanks for not referring me to the school psychologist for being such a weirdo!)
Now this is a Spanish classroom blog, not just a classroom blog, but I dare say that we have all had these book experiences, no matter where you grew up, and no matter what language you speak. A friend of mine gets that goofy look in her eye about El principito, and I’d bet that more than one of us would agree, ¿no? And many of these classics of children’s literature cross international and cultural lines more than their authors ever imagined, don’t you think? (Could the secret to world peace be in getting all the heads of state to reminisce about The Little Prince, perhaps?!?!)
So tell us: what book from your past captures that pure essence of childhood for you? What book makes you grin goofily,revisiting yourself as a child? Have you shared this book with the children/adolescents/students in your life?
(If not, what are you waiting for?! Go! Do it!)
And happy Children’s Day, to all the children in our lives, and to the child that lives in all of us!