Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beware of Treacherous Villains

I found this advice at the end of "One Hundred and One Famous Poems", copyright 1929:

"In choosing books for children these rules, recently laid down by an author of books for boys, are worth the consideration of parents:

'Read your children's books yourself. Or better still, get your boy or girl to read them aloud to you. Ask yourself during the reading:

'Does this book lay stress on villainy, deception or treachery?'

'Are all the incidents wholesome, probable and true to life?'

'Does it show young people contemptuous toward their elders and successfully opposing them?'

'Do the young characters in the book show respect for teachers and others in authority?'

'Are these characters the kind of young people you wish your children to associate with?'

'Does the book speak of and describe pranks, practical jokes and pieces of thoughtless and cruel mischief as though they were funny and worthy of imitation?'

'Is the English good and is the story written in good style?'"

I have to admit, at first I was amused by this article because of its use of words like villainy, treachery, and cruel mischief (I don't think we use those words enough these days!).
I had never considered editing books with the influence or example of the main character in mind. Would there be any good children's books left to read if we lived by this criteria? What about Peter Rabbit or Curious George? (As a side note: I can't figure out why the man with the yellow hat continually trusts George in potentially precarious situations over and over again. When will he ever learn?). And does a book being "true to life" eliminate the whole fiction section of the library?
I have been very protective about which movies to share with my child, and as parents, we are very conscientious about movie ratings and so forth. But books? They seem so.... harmless.

If anything, this was a reminder to me that I should be aware of what influences I allow my child to be exposed to, no matter what type of media.

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