Take Little Black Sambo. As an adult I do NOT want to promote racial disharmony or prejudice or stereotyping in any way. Yet I loved that story so much, my students loved it, we read it over and over, and when I see the cover and illustrations, I get a goofy grin on my face.
It's the same with Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree books. Even as an adult, I think back with fondness to Dame Slap and her impossible math problems, and a tree with magical lands revolving at its top. Admittedly, reading aloud about children with names like Fanny and Dick is a challenge, and the writing is not a style we emulate today, but my students loved those stories, begged for a new chapter each day, and their own writing, reading and playground games reflected that love. Now I see they have re-issued the books but made them more relevant to our day and age. Was it necessary do you think? I was fascinated by Tania McCartney's post about it, where she reveals her daughter's preference for the original versions. And lots of Amazon reviewers agree.
Another old favourite of mine is William. Do you know the series by Richmal Crompton? William definitely wasn't a good role model. He broke windows with his slingshot, told fibs and hankered after all sorts of criminal activities. No, those books aren't great literature, but they make me giggle, and perhaps they'd still make children laugh today.
Sometimes I think we underestimate kids. Perhaps we don't understand that they're capable of recognizing prejudice or other problems in books, and making their own minds up about it. I worry that we are "dumbing down" by keeping kids away from some of the classics, yet I can see that emergent or reluctant readers in particular would be daunted by complex vocabulary and sentence structure.
Where do you stand on this issue? Do you think it's okay to share material or toys with kids that might not be ethical or worthy, so long as we discuss the problems and stereotypes with them? Do you think political correctness can be taken too far? Or are you always careful to provide your kids with literature and toys that support your family's values?
(Image of Little Black Sambo in Public Domain.)
Sometimes parents write to the Book Chook with problems they want to share. Reading-related problems are found in Letter to the Book Chook - Free Reading Material, Letter to the Book Chook - Reading Challenge or Reading Chore, Letter to the Book Chook, Letter to the Book Chook -Starting School, Letter to the Book Chook - Free Reading Material, Letter to the Book Chook - Dad Won't Read Aloud, and Letter to the Book Chook - Phonics Workbooks.