This week in the context of Library Day’s celebration, Santiago will receive to María Teresa Andruetto, Argentinean novelist, storyteller, poet and also a thinker of children’s and young people’s literature. The first time I heard her was in Buenos Aires at the Seminar “The pleasure of reading” in 2008. There she presented the text Towards no adjectives literature. Today, I remember that text and that writer to make this new entry.
When I started thinking this blog, the first problem was the name. Naming is not easy because the name determines and predetermines the content of what we name. Finally, I chose Pensando la LIJ (Thinking about children’s and young people’s literature), because I want to deal with this literature that is read by children and young people. In Spanish, LIJ is already a brand name, a tag. We can’t say “children’s literature” without say “and young people’s literature” but, in the most of times, that construction lead us to loose the literary sense of literature that is read by children and young people.
We say, we listen, we read and we write the word “literature” with the conviction that in its five syllables we have a writer’s quality and adult reader maturity. But we say, we listen, we read and we write “children’s literature” and, automatically, we reduce our expectations. We don’t even have to talk about “young people’s literature” relegated to the last level of literacy, where we just find dust particles of quality.
Andruetto points out that by labelling literature, people “assume themes, styles and strategies, and overall, destination and predetermination of roles that books should play. Children’s literature is supposed to be innocent, easy going, adaptable, able to be fun, to play, to teach and overall, not to cause discomfort and not being awkward. Thus we have very little presence of other aspects and when they are present they appear as must be and with a suspicious scholar curriculum contents.”
Unfortunately, a lot of children’s literature’s ‘writers’ build stories with this misunderstood innocence –that generates ingenuous stories- and make up a social values runway –because children’s literature must teach something.
It’s necessary to concentrate our efforts on a literature without adjectives, or at least, on a literature that even when completes its name using children and young people, stops dealing with a “minor” literature stigma.
Therefore, we need writers that conceive children and young people as the human beings they are and not as malleable subjects succumbing to nice words, naïf-lighting and glowing illustrations.
We need authors concerned with the issues that matter to us –both children and adults- and authors that act like real artists to treat reader children with an aesthetic proposal that appeals both sensitive and intellectual aspects of the reader.
And overall, we need reading mediators capable to recognize childish literature –that that underestimate children because apparently they lack of sufficient intelligence, emotionality, aesthetic sense- over real literature, plenty of sense that allows us –both children and adults- to know (us), discover (us) and understand (us).