Your Child’s Coming-of-Age Novel
January 23, 2012 ~
Growing up can be confusing and stressful. For many great authors, however, coming of age was a source of inspiration. There are thousands of wonderful stories about growing up and maturing, and for many young (and older) readers, these stories are a comfort and support.
The term for this genre of literature is bildungsroman. Bildungsroman is a German word that means “education novel,” and describes literature that follows the protagonist from youth to adulthood. Over time, the term has come to generally represent the coming-of-age novel and stories that follow a child as he or she matures.
The Kumon Recommended Reading List has a number of stories in the bildungsroman genre. There are stories for all ages that readers will find inspiring and comforting as they grow up.
Younger children often struggle with being different from their peers. In “Arthur’s Eyes” (Level AI), Marc Brown shows how getting glasses is something to be proud of. In “Freckle Juice” by Judy Blume (Level AII), Andrew, a boy without freckles, wants to change his appearance, but he learns that he’s fine just the way he is.
Changes in Life
From read-aloud books to novels for older readers, many selections in the Recommended Reading List deal with changes in life. “Changes,” by Pat Hutchins (3 RRL), is a simple story about life changes that your younger child will appreciate. In more difficult life changes, like the death of a loved one, “Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs” by Tomie dePaola (Level BI) can help younger readers understand how loved ones live on in our memories.
For older readers adjusting to changes in life, “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt (Level E) and “Dicey’s Song” by Cynthia Voigt (Level F) address some of life’s tough questions in approachable ways. Reading such novels at the same time and discussing them with your child could be beneficial for the whole family.
There are a number of fantastic stories in the Recommended Reading List that fit into the most traditional definition of Bildungsroman. One classic example, “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles (Level J), takes the reader along one boy’s journey through prep school and how he comes to terms with adulthood.
Other great biographical selections for older readers include “Boy” by Roald Dahl (Level G) and “The Story of My Life” by Helen Keller (Level H).
However your child approaches growing up, a good book can be a great support. Some children may be inspired to write their own bildungsromans. Encourage your children to keep track of their own stories in journals, diaries or photo albums. One day, their stories may encourage other children facing similar situations. Everyone grows up; a good story can make it a little easier.