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Why did we ever stop reading children’s books?

Note from Josh: This is a guest post by Carlon Haas. Carlon writes about tips and tricks for not screwing up your life and career on his…unique blog Don’t Step In The Poop. Carlon’s talking about one of my favorite subjects: kid’s books. Enjoy!

by Carlon Haas

Why did we ever stop reading children’s books?

I’ve read many books on creativity. But what is more creative than the mind of a child? Studies show that 98% of 5 year olds are creative, whereas only 2% of adults are. So, what can we do to improve our creativity?

Reconnect with the “child mind”. And what’s one way to do that?

Read children’s books

This year, I set a direction rather than a goal. And my direction was creativity. I was looking for a book on creativity. But while on a trip to Toys R Us to buy blocks (for myself…reconnecting with my inner child), I noticed this little gem, Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle.

Most know Carle for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?

But what drew me to Draw me A Star was that I had never read it as a child. So, I came to it without any preconceived notions and no memories of it from childhood.

The Good

A good book stretches the imagination. Eric Carle’s artwork is vivid and bright. You could cut out the pictures and hang them on the wall. The artwork is that striking. In a child’s book.

As to the story, unlike some straightforward children’s books, fairy tales, or fables, Carle’s story leaves room for interpretation.

The book opens with an unknown voice asking a young artist to draw a star. And the artist draws a star. And the star asks him to draw a sun. And the artist draws a sun. And the sun asks him to draw a couple, and so and so on until the story ends with the moon asking the now-aged artist to draw him a star.

The story ends with the star asking the old artist to hold on to him and they travel across the night sky.

My reading of this book is Carle is talking about life and death—the star representing what we created in this world and it is that star we hold onto as we cross over to the unknown night. . I think it is no coincidence that he dedicated this book to his father who died 32 years before this book was written.

You see, as the artist aged there was nothing left but his creations. His legacy was the artwork he left behind. And as the artist and the star flew across the night sky, the creator and the created became one.

I think this applies to us. What we create is what we leave behind. Whether its art, writings, or our children. Our legacy is in our creations.

But where to start? Where does this creativity come from? Creativity starts with something simple. In this book, it’s a star. After reading this book, I drew my own actual star. And after that, I made another outlet for my creativity—my blog. That is my “star”. What is your star?

The Bad

The story is repetitive, which is Carle’s signature style. This can be boring for the adult reader. But in the end, this is a children’s book. As someone who has written 60 books for young learners, the repetitive style is excellent for reading comprehension. But adults may not find it as pleasing as other children’s books, such as anything written by Dr. Suess.

But in some ways I find this to be a strength. Rather than giving us a narrative to follow, ”Draw Me a Star’s simplicity gives us a theme to ponder.

The Verdict

I recommend “Draw Me a Star”. Frankly, reading this book made me feel more creative than other books I’ve read on the subject of creativity. It will open your eyes to the artist within you.

I think the measure of any book is after reading it, you feel something…you can take something from it. And I did take something from “Draw Me a Star.”

Any book that encompasses imagination, creativity, and the cycle of life is worthy of our time and attention.

About the author:

Afraid you might be screwing up your life?  Your career? Well, go visit Carlon over at Don’t Step In The Poop.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Annemieke February 14, 2010, 2:19 am

    Loved the post!

    I can totally see what you got from that book and how that relates to blogging.

    The children’s book that did that for me was ‘The Snow Goose’ from Paul Gallico.

    An album from the symphonic rockband Camel is based on that book and it was always my favorite music, although I never read the book.

    Some time ago I got the book from the library and read it in a few hours or so (it is a really small book) and was blown away by it.

    I got to love the music even more and also got a better understanding of creativity and our purpose in life. As a result I wrote a blogpost about my interpretation of the book and the music and since then it is that post that is the fuel for all my other blogging.

    That book describes something, has such a deep understanding of the importance of authenticity combined with the importance of friendship, that I did not read before.

    Thanks for the post, glad I am not the only one who’s favorite book (well, one of them 🙂 is a children’s book.

    • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 10:33 am

      Thanks for the comment, I’ll have to check out the Snow Goose and the Camel album.

      I’m glad there are others out there who are appreciate the wisdom of children’s books.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 14, 2010, 5:10 pm

      I’m going to read The Snow Goose now.

  • Avil Beckford February 14, 2010, 6:16 am

    Hi Carlon,

    I finally found someone who thinks the way I do. Every now and again I do book reviews of children’s books on my blog The Invisible Mentor because I think that we can learn from them. I reviewed some of Aesop’s fairy tales which usually have some great lessons.

    The Little Engine That Could clearly brings home the point that persistence pays which is a lesson that we shouldn’t tire of, and one children’s book that people will not know up is Gellett Burgess’ The Little Father, see my post Role Reversal – A Book Review of The Little Father by Gelett Burgess, http://is.gd/8mkN8. I see it as a great tale of role reversal when adult children have to take care of their aging parents.

    Thank you for writing about Draw Me a Star, I’ll be sure to read it because I have never heard of it.

    • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 10:39 am

      It’s good to see others who like children’s books. Like you, I also enjoyed Aesop’s fables. I’ll check out the Little Father. I looked at your review and the books sounds interesting.

      I hope you’ll enjoy Draw Me a Star.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 14, 2010, 5:10 pm

      Avil, have you read The Little Prince? If not, I think you’d dig it.

      • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 7:51 pm

        I second The Little Prince recommendation. A great book.

      • Oleg Mokhov February 17, 2010, 10:12 am


        The Little Prince is one of the best personal development books I’ve EVER read 🙂

        High on the list for me also is Fight Club.

        As Carlon mentions, sometimes creative fiction is more useful than tailored non-fiction.


        • Josh Hanagarne February 17, 2010, 1:34 pm

          I love me some Fight Club as well. I’ve got a pretty cool letter from Chuck Palahniuk I’ll have to share sometime.

          • Carlon Haas February 17, 2010, 6:38 pm

            I’d like to see the letter from Palahniuk. Fight Club was good.


            For years, I’ve tried to get my business colleagues to read more fiction, but usually to no avail. But I can’t tell you how many creative ideas and pure pleasure I’ve gotten from reading Haruki Murakami novels.

            If you haven’t read him, then you’re missing out.

      • Oleg Mokhov February 17, 2010, 10:18 am

        Forgot to add:

        Calvin & Hobbes

        Technically a comic strip rather than book, but Bill Watterson’s writing is pure, thought-provoking gold. All the while making me laugh my Russian butt off.

        Each time I re-read C&H, I enjoy it more and more, as well take more ideas away from it. WAY more than when I read it for the first time as a 9 yr old.

      • Avil Beckford February 17, 2010, 8:37 pm


        It’s interesting that you asked about The Little Prince, which I read a few years ago, because I was just saying to someone a few days ago that I didn’t think that I really got that book.

        A few years ago a friend was talking to me about The Little Prince and I was convinced that she was talking about another book. Her interpretation and mine were like night and day.


  • Shannon Wagner February 14, 2010, 6:58 am

    My wife and I will often goto Barnes & Noble, to the children’s section (we don’t have kids). She will spend five minutes grabbing four or five books off the shelf, mostly ones she has never read, and then we’ll sit down and she’ll read them all to me. She has an amazing knack for picking good ones on-the-spot (but occasionally we’ll start on one and both realize it just is not a good book, not even for children).

    It’s nice.

  • Kosmo @ The Casual Observer February 14, 2010, 8:32 am

    With a two year old and a six week old in the house, children’s stories are going to be a part of our lives for a while.

    I occasionally spin up new stories when a book isn’t readily available. Often, these are new adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but I have also created some about the original character Ferdinand the Turtle (he’s the king of Turtle Island and his best friend is Bob the squirrel – see details here -> http://www.observingcasually.com/ferdinand-the-turtle/ )

  • Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave February 14, 2010, 9:49 am

    Thanks Josh–a great guest post!
    My now adult son once told someone in that 8 year old matter-of-fact tone, “My Mom gets to go to the kid’s part of the library ’cause she’s an artist.” I can’t imagine being without my picture books.
    I met Carle twenty years ago at a “book signing.” His publicist was concerned that he was short-shrifting the adults because he was drawing with the kids. Hmmmm…

    • Josh Hanagarne February 14, 2010, 5:11 pm

      Carle sounds awesome. His publicist sounds about how I’d expect a publicist to sound:)

  • Sandy February 14, 2010, 10:18 am

    We stopped reading children’s books? OMG when did this happen.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 14, 2010, 5:11 pm

      Not me. I think the Alice books will be in my top 10 until I die.

      • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 8:32 pm

        One note is
        When I re-read the Alice books as an adult, I was totally blown away. I was amazed at the things I missed as a kid.
        Just an AWESOME book.

  • Srinivas Rao February 14, 2010, 10:32 am

    As a blogger, I could see how reading Children’s books could really let our imagination run riot. There’s no doubt that we lose our ability to imagine and be creative. When we are kids we believe in so much possibility, even if it’s ridiculous. I remember thinking someday I would eventually get the superpower to be able to fly. I’m gonna have to the check this out now 🙂

    • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 8:24 pm

      A big blogging lesson I learned from children’s books is that anything is possible. No matter what kind of blog you have, you are able to write about your subject in ways that you may never consider.

      Reading children’s books helped me in many ways find my “voice” on my blog. The simple message was “be creative; be yourself”.

      “Don’t Step in the Poop” in nominally a personal development blog, but I wanted to use more humor and a little satire to give people a nudge.

      It may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

  • Pauline February 14, 2010, 10:54 am

    I, for one, have never stopped reading children’s books and I am about to turn 70! Part of it is legacy from reading to my children constantly (they are glad I did) and part of it is the teacher in me, too. A book you’ve read before is an old friend, always ready to soothe and entertain. My son and his wife read to their newborn in the hospital, and will never stop. Reading gives depth and breadth to life.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 14, 2010, 5:12 pm

      That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day. We started reading to Max the day after he was born, and this kid’s going to be better for it. The same thing happened to me.

  • Jessica Marie February 14, 2010, 1:53 pm

    I made a goal this year to read 50 children’s picture books to take myself back to a better, more creative time in my life.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 14, 2010, 5:12 pm

      How many so far?

    • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 7:56 pm

      A WONDERFUL goal. If you have a good recommendation, pass it along.

  • Daisy February 14, 2010, 3:40 pm

    I love children’s books – and Eric Carle is fabulous. A favorite memory is finding my blind son, then only 2, sitting quietly on his sister’s bed “reading” The Very Busy Spider with its tactile illustrations. We found a Braille copy for him soon after that.
    One of the perks of my job (4th grade teacher) is getting to read all kinds of books at all reading levels.

    • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 8:05 pm

      Thats wonderful. I discovered Carle during my brief stint as a kindergarten teacher. Reading those children’s books really was a great part of the job.

  • Jannie Funster February 14, 2010, 4:59 pm

    My girl is 8 now and tho she’s reading on her own, I still read to her at bedtime. I love the forgotten childhood magic that I’ve rediscovered by reading to my child.

    And tho the Carle books are actually not my super-faves (sorry,Carlon — to each his own, eh) the Kevin Henkes, Louis Sachar, and E.B. Whites really demonstrate the wacky side both my daughter and I gravitate towards. They infectiously free up the mind for fun. I try to have my mood in that space on my blog as much as I can, and tho I’m only human and am not feeling that nuttily chipper all the time, when I’m in that zone it’s the Best thing. And it snowballs with my blogging buddies. Ideally I’d be able to access that whenever I wanted. Maybe I can! I just have to be open to it.

    Thank you both for the inspiration!

    • Josh Hanagarne February 14, 2010, 5:13 pm

      I’ve seen you and your blogging buddies at work. You’re telling the truth:)

    • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 8:03 pm

      Yes, reading to your child is a great way to recapture that childhood magic. That’s what did it for me.

      You’re not the only one who’s not a fan of Carle’s work. Actually, I LOVE his art style. But his repetitive writing can be quite boring for the adult/me (this coming from someone who had the read The Very Hungry Caterpillar every night for a year).

      But Draw Me a Star was different. It’s the only Carle work that I felt an emotional connection to and truly inspired me. I hope it can do the same for anyone who reads it.

  • Stefan | StudySuccessful.com February 14, 2010, 5:19 pm

    Well, Winnie the Pooh lies here next to me. Every once in a while I read a book about the silly old bear. Love it. Think the bear is one of the biggest philosophers who has ever lived (he did live right ;))

    • Carlon Haas February 14, 2010, 8:36 pm

      I thought the Tao of Pooh was pretty good and showed Pooh’s more “philosophical” side.

      • Josh Hanagarne February 15, 2010, 10:55 am

        I liked it too.

      • Stefan | StudySuccessful.com February 16, 2010, 4:00 pm

        I liked it too, for sure. A better on about his philosophy.

        After reading the Tao of Pooh I start reading just Winnie the Pooh again, and I read it with a different view. Interesting, can recommend it!

  • Eugen Oprea February 14, 2010, 7:45 pm

    I didn’t think before that reading books can spark creativity, but you are so right Carlon.

    It’s all about bringing to live the child that lies into us and let her take care of our creativity.

    Josh, Carlon, thanks for putting this together!

  • Justin Matthews February 15, 2010, 12:42 pm

    I went to the library the other day and 2 of the books I picked up to read were beehive nomination books for young readers. I am writing a book for that age group, 12-15 and I have enjoyed these books very much. I get tired of some of the new books that come out and are formulaic and full of violence and gore at the expense of the story.
    I get quite the variety of kids books reading to 3, 6, and 9 year old kids in my house. I can’t wait until July to get back to the baby books I get so sick of reading that I make up stories to go vaguely with the pictures. That is good for over a year when the baby is new, until they can say “No Daddy tell it right!”

  • Jeanette February 19, 2010, 11:55 am

    What a lovely post and so true that getting connected to our inner child can help spark creativity. I’m off to check out some of the books recommended here. Thank you.