Publish at March 07 2023 Updated March 09 2023

The place of children's heroes in children's literature

Role models, good and bad, that prepare for adult life

As children, we have all uttered the phrase, "When I grow up, I want to be like...". This innocent phrase uttered by a child may seem harmless, yet the child firmly believes in it and will certainly go to great lengths to achieve it. There are some who succeed and others who do not. That is not the question. One may wonder where he gets such an aspiration from.

But let's face it, humans are exposed to a plethora of sources of influence. Among these are comic books or children's books. These include characters with strong influence: heroes. A hero is "a legendary person to whom extraordinary feats are attributed".

From comic book heroes with supernatural powers or not, everyone finds something to do with them; we manage to identify ourselves somehow with these models either because they physically resemble us, or through the familiar values they distill. In any case, they have their role to play in the development of the child. So what is it? This question will form the basis of this analysis.

Growing up children

While the family is the primary space of socialization in which children can develop emotionally, socioculturally, cognitively, it is not the only entity to contribute to this. Children's books also do this through their heroes. The latter, far from only entertaining young readers, allow them to develop a multitude of skills such as linguistic, reflective and emotional ones.

As for linguistic skills, we have all learned a new word by carefully reading a comic book or memorizing the mythical lines of a particular character. We still remember like it was yesterday the phrases that some heroes pronounced before the fight and we all had fun repeating them all day long during a battle simulation session with friends. This is the case, for example, the mythical phrase of Shun, the bronze knight, in The Knights of the Zodiac, who, before attacking his opponent, used to announce his action by introducing his weapon with these words "by the power of the nebular chain". This line that awakens a lot of memories allows the young reader to discover new words and enrich his vocabulary.

On the other hand, concerning the reflective and emotional skills, let us notice on the one hand that the hero is confronted throughout the story, with difficulties that prevent him from achieving his mission which is that of generally establishing balance in his society. In this perspective, he must find strategies to make order reign. In this quest the hero's emotions are changing, but he always finds a way to contain himself. Thus, this tumultuous plot, exercises the young reader through his hero, to control his emotions and develop an aptitude for conflict resolution, thanks to the different gymnastics he operates in his mind in order to find probable solutions that must solve a problem.

The young reader becomes imbued with the strategies that the hero implements in order to get out of trouble, which could inspire him later, because often the hero's adventures come within an inch of being real.

As an example, the children's book "Very important tree" by Liam Longland, Heniz studio and Elana Bregin traces a disagreement between two brothers over the cutting down of a tree. In order for this not to happen, the heroine, Busy had to convince her brother by appealing to his reason in order to avoid this catastrophe. Thanks to this method, young people can develop the art of negotiation and not make violence the first recourse to resolve a conflict. As can be seen, the hero allows the child to have a certain greatness of spirit while improving his language skills. However, many moral values are distilled by the hero.

Inculcating moral values

Translating an ideal, an aspiration, values are entities that determine the quality of an individual and allow them to project themselves and define their worldview. Having values, convictions and respecting them is not an easy thing because one can be confronted with a multitude of obstacles that, for sure, are likely to force an individual to deviate from what he tends towards.

Having a value system, however, goes a long way in building one's character and better prepares one to face one's future adult life. While it is true that the abstract notion of value cannot easily translate a reality in the minds of young readers, they can rely on comic book or children's album heroes to facilitate its intelligibility through its actions.

In fact, heroes are examples within a society, they are bearers of many values such as altruism, courage, perseverance among others. They have a positive influence on children especially since they learn through him to make the difference between good and evil, to develop the feeling of compassion and the sense of service.

As an example, we can mention the eponymous hero Spiderman whose main goal is to help the inhabitants of his city (New York) to get rid of evil supernatural characters. This observation allows us to highlight that heroes, thanks to the values they promote, guarantee the formation of positive adults, capable of putting themselves at the service of others, of understanding that life has a purpose, a goal, of giving meaning to his life.

Thus, the child will be able to start from the fictional framework that is created around the hero, define the essence of his presence on earth, which allows him to build a character. If it is true that the heroes have this facility to transmit values to the youngest, these sometimes have recourse to the force so that the good triumphs. Seen from this angle, one could think that they praise violence. For this reason, it is crucial that parents accompany young readers so that they can have realistic conclusions about holding supernatural powers and that the use of violence is of last resort.


Castro Albelaez Maria Alejandra, 2022, "Why are superheroes important to children?", Children's Education, online

Nolween Lancel, 2012, The role of the scrapbook in child development through school and family reading practices, Education, P 15, online

Our Family, 2016, "Superheroes between Imagination and Reality," online

A Very Important Tree - Elena Bregin - Liam Longland

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