This week, the BBC Culture part of its website had a poll on the Greatest Children’s Books Ever

For people who know us, children’s literature holds a special place for us. It provides enchanting stories that shape our imaginations and leave lasting impressions. It was an ambitious endeavor to determine the greatest children’s books of all time.  The link is here They did this by polling 177 experts from 56 countries, and they aimed to create a diverse and comprehensive list that celebrated the power of storytelling across cultures. However, it is important to acknowledge the presence of bias, as a significant majority of the selected books are in English. 

I wasn’t  surprised to see that ‘Where the Wild things Are’ was at number one and that I’d read most of the top 20, though there were some books that I’d never even heard of and had managed to pass me by.

Bias in the Selection Process:

While the poll aimed to be inclusive, it is crucial to acknowledge the inherent bias that arises when predominantly English-speaking experts contribute to such a selection. The English language has an extensive literary tradition, resulting in a higher number of English-language books dominating the list. This unintentional bias might have overshadowed remarkable children’s books from non-English-speaking cultures, which deserve equal recognition.

The Universal Appeal of Children’s Stories:
Despite the potential limitations, the poll managed to highlight extraordinary works of children’s literature that transcend cultural and linguistic boundaries. Many of the English-language books on the list, such as “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling and “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, have captivated millions of readers worldwide. These stories have managed to connect with children across different countries and cultures, illustrating the universal appeal of powerful narratives.

In acknowledging the bias, we must also recognize the necessity of broadening the literary canon to include voices from diverse cultures and languages. This requires actively seeking out and promoting children’s books from non-English-speaking regions, which possess the potential to inspire, educate, and entertain young readers worldwide.

Encouraging Cultural Exchange:
While the BBC Culture poll predominantly featured English-language books, it serves as a starting point for readers to explore children’s literature from different cultures. By actively seeking out translated works and diverse authors, we can broaden our understanding of the world and foster cross-cultural empathy. Initiatives such as translation grants and literary awards that prioritize international voices can play a crucial role in promoting inclusivity in the realm of children’s literature.

BBC Culture’s poll on the greatest children’s books ever provides a valuable glimpse into the world of storytelling and its profound impact on young minds. While the presence of bias towards English-language books is undeniable, it reminds us of the importance of actively seeking out and promoting diverse children’s literature from around the globe. By embracing the power of stories from different cultures and languages, we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to experience the magic of literature and find themselves within its pages.A

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