I’m a children’s literature professor who specializes in the connections between young people’s rights and their reading materials. So as you can imagine, few things bring me greater joy in early December than my university students describing how much they’ve learned about the potential of child-centered children’s literature to empower child readers.
Few things, that is, except my own toddler proclaiming, “cooooooozy!” in the early dusk of a cold December afternoon, after we’ve finished a particularly satisfying book. Cozy is her highest literary praise.
Heading into the anticipation of more leisurely reading time over the holidays, I want more of that particular joy. I’m guessing you do, too.
The right to ‘hygge’.
The thing is, many books that directly address children’s rights are decidedly not cozy. They expose or explore rights violations that range from finger wagging to horrifying.
But I don’t believe we leave behind a commitment to rights when we “indulge” in happy stories that imbue us with feelings of coziness. Indeed, they may be just as rights-supporting as their more sobering, politically charged counterparts.
“Hygge” — the Danish concept of coziness — certainly isn’t a universal human right. But this special winter feeling of security, connection and comfort could be considered the highest expression of human rights — especially for children.
LISTEN: We take a look at ‘Hygge’ on The Well. Post continues after audio.
Beyond steaming cocoa, fuzzy sweaters and crackling fires, feeling cozy at home indicates a state of exceptional well-being that can only be achieved when children’s rights to protection, provision and participation are being met.
Stories that create a feeling of “hygge” aren’t just perfect holiday reading; they may also provide inspiration — a vision of how life could or should be, for those whose rights aren’t currently being met.
Cozy stories are therefore perfect for both perfect and imperfect families alike, especially if your holidays bring more chaos than leisure. You can let the books create the calm.
Here are a few of my favourite wintery read-aloud stories for summoning “hygge” through the holidays.