Curious
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Curious

Why Adults Should Read More Children’s Books

And why it is not about telling stories to our kids

Photo by Catherine Hammond on Unsplash

After watching the recent news about wildfires in California or Australia, I wanted to learn more about climate change. I wanted to understand its root cause and how to slow it down.

And within the same period, there was also news about resuming exploration on the Moon. I was always interested in space exploration when I was a kid. So I told myself to go learn about that as well.

But to be honest, I might be a veteran in information technology after working in the industry all my life. I have absolutely zero knowledge of meteorology or astronomy.

So my first question to myself is: Where do I start?

Searching for answers

The first answer that came to mind was to search online for the learning materials. But after a while, I realized the online information was more suitable for deep diving on a particular topic. And not for a general introduction.

For a newbie like myself, the information seemed to be scattered on different websites and I found it hard to get a hold of the whole picture. So, I needed to look for a second source of information.

And the answer to my second source question was the For Dummies reference books.

I’ve been a fan of the series for a long time. Over the years, I’ve read more than a dozen books of the series ranging from Personal Finance to Wine Tasting. I’ve always loved the way they introduce the topic from an absolute beginner’s point of view using layman terms.

On the topics of meteorology or astronomy, I found the related For Dummies books to be comprehensive. However, the books relied too much on tabular data to explain the ideas. There were some simple (black and white) diagrams to help the explanation, but they were far in between.

So I went to find out if there was a third alternative.

Learning from children

And I found it from an unexpected place.

I was in the public library one day and I happened to walk across the children's section. Something that caught my eye was there was a specific subsection for science.

I randomly picked a couple of books about climate and space. Without much expectation, I did a quick scan and flipped through the pages. And I was beyond amazed — I was inspired.

Most of these books had less than 20 pages. Each page was full of colorful graphics and diagrams. Only a small portion of each page was occupied with text. Thus, the text was delegated to just key concepts and condensed into the bare minimum.

For instance, in one of the books about climate, the first two sentences were:

Weather depends on two things: water, and the Sun.

Without different types of weather, no life could exist on Earth.

Followed by two pages of vivid diagrams, the book explained how the seawater is carried to the land by clouds and dropped down as rain. Then how the rainwater travels through rivers and eventually back to the sea.

In an ordinary adult textbook, I would probably have to read more than five pages of pure text to obtain the same information.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all books with pure text are bad. What I am saying is beginners' books will be more effective, when explaining complex concepts in more visualized ways.

Graphics and diagrams are important, and so are the colors. Because not just kids, we adults also love reading with colors.

Communicating with adults

On the other hand, there is a misunderstanding about children's’ books. People usually thought children's books are for kids or parents to tell stories to their kids.

But from my experience, children’s books are extremely useful during discussions between adults. Because the concepts are so simplified and organized in these books. It is much easier to articulate complex concepts using the information there.

One personal example of mine. I was able to explain to my parents why the sky is blue using the ideas from a children’s book on climate. To be honest, I didn’t fully understand the reasons myself until I read that book.

Besides the topics on science, there are other topics in which children’s books are even better media than adults’. For instance, one of my favorite children’s books is The Giving Tree. The book is about sacrifice, parental love, and nature.

In contrast to the colorful science books previously mentioned, everything in this book (except the cover) is in just black and white.

But when talking about sacrifice, there are no other books — for adults or not — that I am so deeply touched like this one. Without giving away too much, the story is about the friendship between a tree and a boy. And how their friendship changes as they both grow old.

The pictures in the book are all hand-drawn and they look simple. Plus, there are only a few of them on each page. However, the ideas expressed in the book are both complicated and vast.

Because after you finish the book, you can easily see the story can apply to not just between two old friends. But between parents and children, humans and nature, etc.

Simplifying our lives

Adult lives are already complicated with work, family, etc.

Oftentimes, it is not easy to find the time to check out something completely new to us. Asking ourselves to dive into a textbook with a couple of hundred pages would be difficult — if not impossible sometimes.

In these cases, a children’s book will be one of the great alternatives. And you would find the learning experience much more interesting than it sounds.

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