NORMAL, Ill. — Children’s literature today shows more caring and more presence of fathers, observes an Illinois State University professor who was recently recognized for her literary research.

Roberta Trites, a distinguished professor and interim department chair in the College of Business, is only the third American to receive the International Grimm Award for Research into Children’s Literature from the International Institute for Children’s Literature in Osaka, Japan.

The award, first given in 1987, is presented every other year to someone “who has performed outstanding work in research into children’s literature and picture books, or one who has contributed remarkably to such research and to the promotion of such research,” according to the organization’s website.

The award was named in honor of the Brothers Grimm, whose collections of folk tales include such children’s classics as “Cinderella,” ”Hansel and Gretel,” ”Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

Children’s literature won’t go away, even though many things are vying for the attention of today’s young people, said Trites.

“They’re reading, but they’re reading on different platforms,” she said. “They read very extensive narratives online.”

The focus of Trites’ research is on feminism in children’s literature. Her first book, “Waking Sleeping Beauty: Feminist Voices in Children’s Novels,” was published in 1997. Her latest book, which will be published soon, “Twenty-First Century Feminisms in Children’s and Adolescent Literature,” looks at what’s changed in the past two decades.

Trites sees a lot more emphasis on caring in today’s literature.

“There’s a lot more presence of fathers in the home” and fathers who are “more emotionally involved with their children,” she said. “I find that to be a positive change.”

Another trend she sees is “mothers as the supporters of their children . not standing in the way,” said Trites, noting that in some older literature “mothers are absent because they’re seen as interfering with adventure.”

Ideally, literature both reflects culture and changes culture, she said.

“I think Harry Potter changed a whole generation,” she said.

The series of books by J.K. Rowling made young people in the 21st century more creative and team-oriented, Trites said, and helped them “believe in infinite possibilities.”

The books “fostered in them a desire to be a team like Harry, Hermione and Ron,” she said.

Trites had been a semifinalist for the Grimm Award before but was “absolutely overwhelmed and speechless” when told she had won. She has been a faculty member and administrator at ISU since 1991.

She was already an avid reader when she came down with pneumonia at age 7.

Her grandfather bought her a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” even though the bookseller thought it would be too difficult for her, she recalled.

“I wanted to prove that bookseller wrong,” said Trites, who dove into the book.

She sees Alcott as the first American feminist author, but “women’s issues in literature go back to our most ancient texts,” said Trites, citing Greek drama, the Bible and Mideastern texts.

These books “recognized that a female’s experience is different,” she said.

Trites sees children’s literature evolving on multimedia platforms, with a continuation of interest in fantasy and dystopic literature and a continuation of series books, like Harry Potter.

She also thinks there will be “a lot more young authors because they can publish on the internet.”


Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, http://bit.ly/2vghjRl


Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.