People learning a language different from their primary one always begin from the level of a child. Across the spectrum of nationalities, this is true regardless of one’s capacity, as textbooks that aid in studying a new language always begin with the formation of simple sentences with the use of simple words. Because of this, it is not surprising that the best way to augment one’s education is through children’s books.
Now, just because children’s books are intended for the young demographic, it does not mean that their themes and ideas are confined for them. Under the light word choices and easy “read” mask rich and fulfilling narrations that are worthy of being explored by all ages. However, with With that said, here are three wonderful English children’s novels that are worth picking up as a supplement to people leaning the English language.
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
The Harry Potter series of novels were written by the renowned author, J. K. Rowling, and has achieved huge popularity with the help of the movie adaptations. The Philosopher Stone is the first book of the series, which began the adventures of its main protagonist, Harry Potter, a wizard child who lived his 11 years with rather unpleasant foster family. He then discovered his magical origins, and decided to leave a life of abuse to fulfill his destiny by first going to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the wizarding school. There, he met Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, his best friends and companions for the next seven years; and the three lived their first year of school with tons of adventure and mischief that culminated with them pursuing the coveted Philosopher’s Stone which Voldemort—the main antagonist of the series—was after at the time.
The story of The Philosopher’s Stone revolves around the themes of necessary rebellion, as well as unwavering humility. The former is presented during the multiple times the heroic trio went beyond the bounds of the school rules to do several virtuous deeds, where one of which was to prevent the evil wizard from acquiring the means of immortality. The latter, on the other hand, is envisioned in Harry Potter’s character after learning his heritage and his destiny as a hero that will save the Wizarding World from demise. He remained humble and compassionate, and had been an outstanding personality that was willing to stick out for the bullied and the oppressed. As the story progressed along the series, the themes became more socio-political despite its being a children’s story—and as such, it is best to start with the exposition and the origins of its main character, as well as his motivations.
2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
The book here, unlike the previous entry, is the sequel to a prior book released by its author, Mark Twain, which was entitled The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The story of this book revolves on the life of Tom Sawyer’s friend, Huckleberry Finn, who was a poor boy with a drunkard father. The story took place in St. Louis, Missouri, where the poor are oppressed, and slavery was accepted. Because of his situation as an abused child because of certain stash of riches he and Tom acquired during their previous exploits, he was adopted by a woman named Widow Douglas, who lives with her sister, Miss Watson. He was forced to be educated and groomed to become part of the elite and cultured social class, which Finn found to be disgusting, even though he has learned to accept over time. When his father once again tormented him, he became fed up and escaped his reality, meeting a fellow outcast, Jim, who was an escaped slave of Miss Watson. Throughout their adventure, Huckleberry Finn discovered deeper problems with the society he lived in with regard the treatment of slaves, and he was tested to choose between treating Jim as an object, or as a person. The story was resolved when Tom found the two, and exposing the facts that Finn’s father had already died, and Jim was already a free man since the death of his former mistress, and Finn becoming fed up with the idea of being adopted by a “civilized” foster family.
In contrast with the light tone of the first entry that primarily explores the concept of virtue, as well as the use of Fantasy to depict certain realities, this book presents the dilemma created by the context of the historical time—a time when slavery is an accepted norm. We are exposed to the hypocrisy of a “civilized” society where fellow human persons are subjected to cruel treatment and abuse, which runs counter with what an educated person should present him/herself. Long story short, despite its comic presentation and its light language, the tale of Huckleberry Finn is one that bears weight of a dark part of history.
3. Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
The last of the books on the list reels us back to a Fantasy children’s story written by C. S. Lewis, an author known for the classic series, Chronicles of Narnia, in which this book is included. It is the first book in the series, and gave us the background of the four main characters, the Pevensie siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. During their move to the countryside because of the Second World War, the siblings found themselves exploring a new world—Narnia—that was accessible through a wardrobe in the house owned by Professor Kirke, their guardian. Lucy ended up in the said world first, and learning about the White Witch who was controlling Narnia by dictatorship by instilling the curse that granted Winter forever with no Christmas. Edmund ended up in the same world the second time his sister goes to Narnia, but encountered the White Witch, who enticed him with a dessert that he kept on craving. The third time Narnia was explored, all four of the siblings arrive, being awaken by the reality of Narnia, and was encouraged to meet with Aslan—the lion that was regarded as a deity there. Problems arose when the witch learned about the prophesy of the four humans that will overthrow her, and moved to kill Edmund first. Aslan, learning of this, sacrifices himself to save the boy, only to be revived again and join Peter and the siblings in their battle with the White Witch.The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had been regarded as an allegory with several Christian tones. The novel explored the dangers of gluttony and greed, as it was the driving force that drove Edmund to side with the White Witch initially. He even sold his siblings’ actions to the witch because of the insatiable craving for the dessert that she gave the child—much like Judas Iscariot sold Jesus to the Romans for 30 pieces of silver. Furthermore, and perhaps the biggest salute to Christianity is Aslan mirroring the passion of Christ, where he suffered, died, and rose again to save Edmund and the whole of Narnia. In summary, this story provides a clear visual of sacrifice for the greater good, much like the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of mankind as depicted in Christian lore.