Childhood is considered the most innocent chapter of a person’s life, and as time goes by, it evolves into adolescence and adulthood. Yet the memories we gained remain with us to this day. Although my younger self lacked knowledge and my spirit was not yet spoiled by the problematic affairs the world encounters everyday, me and other children unknowingly grew up surrounded by the guidance of our favorite childhood books.
I believe in stories; stories from my childhood that included The Giving Tree, The Lorax, The Rainbow Fish, and etc. Over the years, my family has acquired a collection of literary gems, in the form of children’s books, and they contain some of the most beautifully told and important advice.
Almost every Sunday night up until the age of 7, my mom would read me a story before bedtime, and I would always ask for the same story: Corduroy by Don Freeman. The same story that both me and my mom love; however, for entirely different reasons. For me, I was always drawn by the adorable teddy bear in his little green overalls, whereas my mom, unbeknownst to me, found the story to be an educational experience for her daughter. An educational experience being a time where she could expose me to the underlying meanings hidden in the pages of my favorite story.
As a child, I only saw the story for its plot: a teddy bear that loses his button and embarks on a night time journey to retrieve it. But as I was growing up, I acknowledged that this classic children’s story raised questions about important issues that we have all encountered before: materialism and acceptance. I realized that the mother wouldn’t let her daughter buy Corduroy because he wasn’t the best toy in the aisle and that he had a button missing. I realized that the little girl bought him anyways because she accepted him for his imperfections. I realized that Corduroy’s plot basically parallels our reality, the reality being that we live in an extremely materialistic society and that we sometimes struggle with emphasizing tolerance in the form of acceptance toward others.
Of course, I didn’t understand that there were lessons and hidden issues brought up somewhere in the story, granted that I was just a child, but now looking back, I acknowledge and most importantly, appreciate, that most of the stories we grew up with, no matter how trivial they sounded, illustrated simple, yet universal messages and problems that we all can understand and/or can relate to currently.
Only as an older figure, do I and those around me recognize the motivation of the Lorax wanting the Once-ler to stop cutting down the luxurious truffula trees, the reason why the giving tree gave everything it had to the boy throughout his life, and why the rainbow fish decided to share her beautiful scales.
These stories were filled with light-hearted characters and plots on the surface, but when I look back at the stories my childhood consisted of, I mostly regard the lessons, the lessons that I essentially grew up with, unbeknownst to me. In The Lorax, I acknowledge that Dr Seuss was encouraging a caring approach to our environment; in The Giving Tree, I understand that Silverstein was pointing out that happiness demands sacrifice for those we love; in The Rainbow Fish, I noticed that Pfister emphasized the importance of sharing. Sometimes it takes the simplicity of a story meant for those younger than us to remind us about what’s really important.
I believe in the stories that have granted me the many lessons I know and that have shaped me into who I am today.