Believe it or not, some children's picture books SHOULD NOT be read to children.
Children's Books Need to Be Vetted By Parents
Just because a book has been published and placed on store and library shelves, does NOT mean that it is guaranteed to be safe and appropriate for your child to read.
As ridiculous as it may sound, even the books in the children's section of the library need to be vetted by parents.
If I hadn't experienced it, I wouldn't have believed it!
I rediscovered the need for parental censorship of children's books this week.
We had fifteen minutes to return books to the library, select and a new batch of books, process them through the borrowing system and leave the library before it closed.
As a result, my normal pattern of scrutinizing each book (i.e., looking at the title, the subject matter, the illustrations and print inside the book, etc.), before borrowing, was reduced to a quick glance at the cover. As it turns out, this was a bad move!
Later that day, I sat down to read some of the books with my boys and was horribly shocked by what I found.
Book No. 1
The first book I picked up was about monkeys and a circus. Sounds safe and appropriate for children, doesn't it?
However, it turns out that this particular book involved the characters pulling down their underwear and showing each other their genetials.
For the rest of the book, the characters boasted about their urinating abilities and were actually depicted as 'peeing' on every page in various positions (e.g., from up high, down low, on one leg, etc).
That book was discarded ... with haste!
Book No. 2
Bring out book number two. This one focused on a boy reporting back to his mum about the events of his school day. Again, it sounds safe to start with.
Unfortunately, the book was full of references to 'off-colour' words that we don't use in our house. Without introducing these words to my boys, the story made no sense at all.
Worse yet, my boys wanted to know what these words were! As if I was going to teach my children fowl language in order so they could understand the book!
The second book was discarded ... with disbelief!/
Book No. 3
Surely the third book would be fine? Turns out, however, the next book was about a fish which blew 'botty bubbles' (i.e., passed wind) on every page. It focused on what I term "toilet humour" in larger-than-life pictures and full colour!
Surely there are topics more worthy of being read ... and definitely more educational!
The third book was discarded ... with disgust!
Let's just say that wasn't one of our finest reading sessions!
How Can That Book Be Published????
Over the years, I've read literally thousands of children's books. Thankfully, many of these are utterly fantastic! They've been written well with strong storylines, enticing illustrations, believable characters and are an absolute joy to read.
Then there are other books ... the ones that parents need to vet.
When I come across these books, I often ask 'how on earth did that ever get published?" Isn't there some sort of censorship body that overlooks children's picture books?
Why Does the Responsibility of Censoring Books Fall On Parents?
I have discovered that censorship of children's books is a touchy subject.
Individuals cry they have a right to express their opinions, ideas and thoughts in ways they feel comfortable with.
Others feel that censorship involves restricting children's reading so that many books which are acceptable for others (e.g., "Where the Wild Things Are" or "Little Red Riding Hood") are banned for political or religious reasons.
Censorship Involves Values Which Differ from Family to Family
The problem is that what is acceptable to one family is not acceptable to another. For example, some families allow swearing and slang words while others don't.
The solution: parents need to "censor" children's picture books for their own children, just as they vet what children watch on television.
I find this incredibly sad as surely children's picture books should be about fostering a love of reading in children ... and providing education through the appropriate books.
Is there really a need to include swear words, off colour-words or inappropriate topics and crude behaviour in children's picture books?
Not everything is WORTH reading!
Warning for Parents
I'm not writing about censorship so much as I write to warn parents that children's books do need to be scrutinized to ensure they fit in with the values, morals and beliefs of their families.
Which Children's Books Should NOT be read to Children?
As a teacher, I have always vetted children's books to ensure that they are appropriate for the children I'm reading to. It's a matter of necessity.
I've found the following to be grounds for immediate dismissal of a book to the "never-to-be-read-pile" ...
Warning 1: Watch Out for Fowl or Inappropriate Language
The English language is full of so many words that we can teach children. There's no reason why we should focus on inappropriate words in place of the richness of other available words.
Instead of use swear words in children's books, surely we can teach our children to express their emotions in more socially acceptable ways using a wider repertoire of words that are socially acceptable.
There's more than one way to describe any situation.
Warning 2: Watch Out for Inappropriate Behaviour.
Check whether that book contains behaviour that you are happy to expose your children to.
Warning 3: Watch Out for Unsuitable Humour
Does the book include humour that you want to develop in your child? Is the humour respective of others?
Warning 4: Watch Out for ....
... here's where you can add your own criteria to be on the lookout for. What is important in your family? What values do you uphold? Check to make sure that the children's picture books you provide your children do not undermine these.
Of course, there are always times when you can take a book, look at what the character is doing (e.g., lying, stealing) and use it as a teaching opportunity of what not to do.
I'm not suggesting that all children's books should be banned because they contain:
For the majority of children's picture books, they are treasures to be relished ... full of tremendous learning opportunities.
However, parents, teachers and carers, beware that there are some books which simply are NOT worth reading.
Indeed ... there are some children's picture books which are hazardous to children due to inappropriate language, subject matter and content!
Absolutely continue to enjoy books with your child. Reading is an essential life skills and a source of great pleasure. Just be aware that not all children's books are great!
If you're looking for what SHOULD be included in children's picture books, read 8 Tips for Choosing Children's Books
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