A journey through Armenian children’s literature

Armenian children’s literature has deep roots in the rich folk traditions of the region, including folk songs, fairy tales and miniature paintings that have been cherished for centuries.

The emergence of written children’s literature can be traced back to the works of Khachatur Abovyan, marking the beginning of a vibrant literary tradition. Subsequently, influential writers like Ghazaros Aghayan and Hovhannes Tumanyan contributed significantly to the development of the genre. Tumanyan captured the essence of childhood through language that resonates with young readers. He believed in the importance of truthfully representing children’s mental worlds and connecting the material with their everyday lives. Tumanyan used humor to foster joy and laughter while developing young minds. He also saw children’s literature as a powerful tool to address many societal issues.

Today, Armenian children’s literature continues to evolve, addressing contemporary challenges and societal issues faced by young readers. From promoting inclusivity to fostering environmental awareness, children’s literature plays a crucial role in shaping the minds and values of future generations.

Innovations and initiatives in Armenian children’s literature

Anush Vardanyan, a children’s literature author who has been the chief editor of the “Tsitsernak” magazine since 2000, enthusiastically flipped through its pages, highlighting its nearly 100-year history.

Vardanyan believes in the progress of modern children’s literature. Her magazine does not contain materials taken from the Internet. Instead, it features unique works written by contemporary Armenian children’s writers, proof of the magazine’s commitment to original content. The magazine is also a platform for creative children to take their first steps, as children can submit their pictures and poems for publication.

Chief editor of “Tsitsernak” magazine Anush Vardanyan

“The magazine even enters the kindergarten, becoming children’s first reading material,” said Vardanyan, adding that her only intention is for children to get to know the writers who live next to them. The magazine has published the works of classical children’s literature writers as well as modern ones.

“We have a great field of children’s writers, such as Edward Militonyan, Satenik Ghazaryan and Olga Daryan. Many children’s writers cooperate with us from different regions of Armenia, for example, Suren Davtyan from Hrazdan, Vardges Khanoyan from Yeghegnadzor…Children’s literature should be published, because it is accepted all over the world. The child should interact with the book and the material and read at a young age, because reading develops imagination,” said Vardanyan.

This year, “Tsitsernak” will cooperate with the Yazidi community of Armenia. Rustam Shamoyan, a member of the Writers’ Union of Armenia and a Yazidi by nationality, contacted the magazine. One issue of the magazine will be completely filled with works by Yazidi children.

The role of children’s literature in Armenian society

The Week of Children’s Books and Music, which is celebrated in Armenia every year, has acquired a special significance in Armenian society.

The week’s activities were first organized in 1943 in Moscow, turning into a great all-Union holiday for all children. In later years, they were concentrated in one of the Soviet Union’s republics.

Armenia has celebrated the Week of Children’s Books and Music for many years, highlighting the role of books and reading in the lives of the young generation. The National Children’s Library named after Khnko Aper conducts it in cooperation with the Writers’ Union of Armenia. Almost all libraries in Armenia participate in the events.

“Tsitsernak” magazine and other children’s books

This year, the opening event will be held in Tsaghkadzor on April 3. Meetings with cultural figures and children’s literature authors, musical games and quizzes, educational courses, cartoon viewings and more will be organized.

There is no shortage of readers at library No. 17, named after Shushanik Kurghinyan. Chief librarian Gohar Martirosyan told the Weekly that the circle of visitors is quite wide across age and profession. “Whoever can read comes to the library,” Martirosyan said.

Martirosyan added that the children’s literature section receives a large number of visitors, with parents often personally selecting books for their young children. Most of the books are written by Tumanyan, Aghayan or Khnko Aper, but they also include world children’s literature.

The library organizes interesting events for readers, including games, fairy tale readings and puzzles for young children to play, listen to and solve. “Sometimes, after reading fairy tales, we act them out,” Martirosyan said.

The psychological and societal impacts of Armenian children’s literature

Every night, when Arpine Kocharyan’s daughter goes to sleep, she asks her mother to read Hans Christian Andersen’s poems. “Even if I don’t want to read, Luse makes me,” Kocharyan said.

A story-loving girl, Luse doesn’t go to school yet, but she loves children’s books and has memorized some works. “Luse is looking forward to going to school and starting to read her books,” her mother said.

Luse’s love for children’s books was formed in an interesting way. “One day, I decided to read a long book to Luse, a fairy tale that does not start and end, but would continue every day, leaving the continuation to the child’s imagination and teaching them to look forward to the next day’s portion,” Kocharyan said.

She is very happy that her daughter loves children’s literature, seeing it as a method of education. “Children understand that there is a conflict in life. They begin to distinguish between good and bad and try to be like the positive heroes,” she said.

Kocharyan refrains from giving her child a phone and carefully chooses the cartoons that Luse can watch. “Now the Internet is very dangerous for children, because some cartoons promote aggression. There are very few children who are not addicted to the Internet. I have always considered it a problem,” Kocharyan said.

Armenian folk tales have a long history. Since ancient times, they have been passed down, word by word, sharing stories of the brave, ordinary people who resisted the tremendous forces of nature and evil, the rich oppressors. The plots of Armenian folk tales have a lot in common with global tales, but the forms of the story, the colorful language and the names and characteristics of the heroes distinguish the special national attraction of Armenian fairy tales. Created across centuries, Armenian folk tales reflect both the social contradictions and the wisdom of a people striving for a free and dignified life. Armenian folk tales also reflect a unique satirical approach to the story and humor, in which the heroes do not lose in any situation.

Child psychologist Ani Apitonyan

Child psychologist Ani Apitonyan considers fairy tales to be serious creations that include the traditions and norms of a nation and the patterns of life, such as death and birth, the relationship between good and evil, and the opposites of victory and defeat. “A child learns everything by listening to a fairy tale,” Apitonyan said.

Apitonyan advises choosing fairy tales for preschool children that are not particularly cruel. She also emphasized the similarities between fairy tales and real life. “Good always wins over evil. With all of the evil in the world, it still continues to live, to give birth, to create, to create good, to love, to care…The world continues to live thanks to the victory of good,” she said, emphasizing that adults also need children’s books.

“Fairy tales contribute to the child’s assimilation of the culture, norms and scenarios of the social environment. They contribute to private socialization, development, thinking and speech,” she concluded.

Armenian children’s literature, steeped in centuries-old traditions and bolstered by contemporary innovations, serves as a beacon of cultural pride and educational enrichment. Through the pages of timeless tales and modern initiatives, children are not only entertained but also empowered to explore the depths of their imagination and engage with the world around them. 

Anna Harutyunyan

Anna Harutyunyan

Anna Harutyunyan is a freelance journalist from Yerevan. She is currently studying at the Department of Journalism at the Armenian State Pedagogical University. Anna has successfully completed the one-year educational program at "Hetq Media Factory."

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