Growing up, everyone had their favorite book or books. The books we treasured and read in our childhoods have inspired and shaped our imaginations into our adulthood. And the stories in those books changed with time as the trends in children's literature changed to reflect the times they were written in.
Children's literature is one of the more complex forms of writing, as its impact is incredible. The books can inspire and teach in ways not possible with other mediums. And it may seem like a daunting challenge to write for children and tap into that book market. But understanding what kind of books are popular in children's literature can help give you direction.
Children's literature is books aimed at newborns to eighteen-year-old teenagers. These include both fiction and non-fiction.
Before this blog delves into trends in children's literature in 2021, we'll look at the potential of the children's literature market. We'll also expand a little on what it means by trends in literature.
The Potential of Children's Literature
The potential market for children's literature globally is massive and is expected to continue growing in the coming years. Currently, it is expected that 2021 will see 18.2 billion US dollars through the sales of children's books. And this figure is expected to rise to 25 billion US dollars by 2025.
A significant part of the sales comes from adults also reading trending children's books. The most well-known of these would be the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The HP series' popularity went beyond its intended market of school children. This phenomenon is not new, as many beloved children's tales have found a home beyond their intended markets. Books like The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis and Roal Dahl's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory are examples of children's books popular among adults.
Another thing to understand is that trends in children's literature are not confined to just fiction. Nonfiction has gained increasing popularity in recent years as well. We will go through the types of books trending in non-fiction and what kind of topics they cover later on.
The potential is there, and the market is ever-growing, so there is always room for another good children's author. Who knows, your creation may be the next popular children's book character.
Understanding What Is Meant by Trends in Literature
We feel it is important to understand what is meant by trends in literature before we look at the current trends in children's literature. A trend in literature is something the writer abides by in a way that mirrors the general idea of the time period a piece is written in. The writer abides with regards to form, ideologies, themes and expressions.
Examples of trends in literature, in general, are Modernism, Post-Modernism, Realism, etc. Trends in children's literature do see the impact of trends in adult literature but sometimes impact is reversed. Defining trends is a bit more difficult as the concepts and things that form the focal points of trending children's books can be whimsical or arbitrary in some cases.
So let's see the trends for 2021 and what is capturing the imaginations and inspiring children around the globe.
Trends in Children's Literature That You Should Know
Children's literature, both fiction and non-fiction, has a greater responsibility now more than ever at what it presents. The trends reflect this sense of responsibility that many children's authors feel. Beyond reflecting the times we live in, the current trends show that people want children to be imaginative and better people as they grow up.
Some of the trends in popular children's literature these days are as follows:
There was a time when almost all major story protagonists fit very specific criteria. But, those days are in the past. So, we are seeing more and more popular children's literature with a diverse range of empowered female protagonists and characters.
These stories take place in various settings, from the modern to fantasy to the future, with diverse protagonists. These tales are meant to inspire and give girls around the world heroes and role models to look up to. Some characters are fictional, and others depict real-life characters going on adventures.
This trend in children's literature has produced some amazing works covering a wide range of issues that girls face today. The sheer joy when one reads a character experiencing a similar situation to oneself cannot be stated enough.
Books like "I Like Myself" by Karen Beaumont teach children how to be comfortable with who they are. Or "The Princess Knight" by Cornelia Funke spins a tale of sexism and how the world discourages girls from pursuing certain paths. In this story, it is the desire to become a knight and learn the ways of the sword. Another great example that goes beyond female representation and adds representation for neuro-divergent people is "The Girl Who Thought In Pictures" by Julia Finley Mosca.
The examples are many, and each year more and more authors are adding stories of girls who can, creating mirrors to the issues in the real world. Of all the trends in children's literature to gain traction, this has the potential to have the largest impact.
The world is diverse, and people come in all shapes and shades. Stories that showcase the theme of inclusivity, whether it be tales of a person of color or someone differently-abled, are becoming more common. It's hard to imagine a time when these kinds of stories weren't present, and children had a hard time relating to their circumstances.
Representation matters! Not only does it help kids relate to their circumstances. But, stories that are representative and inclusive are also great ways to teach children how to interact with others who are different. This point about representation matters is valid for both people of color and people who are differently-abled. But it goes beyond that to identity, to family dynamics, and more. As a result, more and more trending children's books feature inclusivity in one form or another these days.
One hopes that these inclusive tales will have a positive impact and make the world a more tolerant and diverse place. Some examples of this trend in children's literature are given below.
"It's Okay To Be Different" by Todd Parr is a rhyming book aimed at toddlers and is meant to teach diversity to them. The book showcases many characters with different traits such as braces, glasses, runny noses, wheelchairs, etc. It shows that people are different, and it is okay to be different.
Another example is "Hello Goodbye Dog" by Maria Gianferrari tells the tale of Zara and, through this story, teaches the concept of service animals. Or "All Are Welcome" by Alexander Penfold uses a classroom setting to teach about diversity and inclusion and its importance.
These stories are bringing forth popular children's book characters who are relatable. They show children stories where they see themselves. Where they see their own lives reflected, and it shows them that life is diverse, wondrous, and it's okay to be different.
The previous two trends in children's literature that we talked about are serious and have real-world impacts. But children's literature is more than lessons imparted. It is also about unleashing the creativity and imagination of children. Popular children's literature has often taken kids of all ages to wonderous lands and distant times on amazing adventures.
In recent years there has been a surge of tales featuring dragons in one way or another for children. And it's not just the kids. It's even adult literature that has become fascinated again by these majestic creatures.
Depending on the age group, the tales featuring dragons can range from humorous and whimsical to grand adventures of yore. For example, "The Dragonet Prophecy" by Tui T. Sutherland is an exhilarating tale of destiny, prophecy amidst dragons for teenagers. While "Dragons Love Tacos" by Adam Rubin is a whimsical tale of inviting dragons to your party through the deliciousness of tacos.
Video games have come a long way since the pixelated days of pong. And as the industry grows, its influence can be seen in other mediums as well. The worlds crafted in video games are made into the pages of books the same way books are being adapted into video games. Video games already offer such extensive worlds, characters, heroes, villains, and more that it makes sense that they have jumped mediums.
Popular children's literature involving video games comes in different forms. It could be tie-in books from popular video games aimed at children and young adults. They can also be stories where the characters' love of video games plays an integral part, or they get transported into video games.
One of the more enduring and early examples of this trend before it became popular was "Only You Can Save Mankind" by Terry Pratchett. The series of books by PopularMMO, a Youtuber, takes young readers into fantastical adventures in the worlds of popular video games like Minecraft. Or the many tie-in novels set in the Pokemon universe or the Star Wars universe written specifically for children.
This particular trend in children's literature will continue to grow in popularity as video games become more and more part of our pop culture.
Mysteries is one of those trends in literature that never quite go out of popularity. Mysteries have endured the test of time, and changing trends and books falling under it remain as popular as ever. Children's mystery books are appearing more and more in the trending children's books lists, and the resurgence does not seem to be slowing anytime soon.
These books are favorites of many children around the world because of the intrigue they bring and the curiosity they spark. Books like "City Spies" by James Ponti, "Jada Sly, Artist & Spy" by Sherri Winston, or "Mac Undercover" by Mac Barnett are all examples of popular mystery books for children. And of course, one cannot mention mystery books for children without mentioning "The Hardy Boys" series.
Spooky & Scary Tales
It seems counter-intuitive that spooky & scary stories would be one of the popular trends in children's literature. But, the number of books being published and loved says otherwise. These stories are spooky but not terrifying like adult horror. Just as some kids love reading tales of dragons and distant planets, some are interested in monsters and the spooky.
These children's books are aimed at the higher age group but are nevertheless popular. Some have even been adapted for shows and movies in recent years, showcasing their growing popularity and market demand.
The most popular and trailblazer of all spooky stories for children was the "Goosebumps" series by R.L. Stine. More recent examples include books such as "Eerie Elementary'' by Max Brailler, "Creepy Carrots!" by Aaron Reynolds, Caroline By Neil Gaiman, etc.
Once non-fiction was only for adults, but now there are so many wonderful books aimed at children. These comprise books that explain the world and the universe to give role models to children of real-life superheroes. There are several trending children's books among the various fictional works available, with more and more coming out each year.
The sheer diversity of books that fall under this umbrella makes it difficult to cover all possible categories. However, a few examples and what they entail are possible. For example, the "Rebel Girls" books showcase women, heroes from history, and current years. They tell tales of inspirational women of color, history, science, and much, much more. Or "Planes: From the Wright Brothers to the Supersonic Jet" by Jan Van Der Veken is a guide to the history and development of powered flight.
Non-fiction has its place within children's literature alongside fiction. They both teach and inspire in different ways.
Trends are transitory, and some remain, and some go. However, one thing that has always been evident regarding trends in children's literature is that every page is a lesson bundled in an enjoyable package irrespective of the theme.
So, consider including themes of tolerance, humor, manners, and morals when writing or buying a book for children.
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