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11 May 2016 @ 04:35 pm
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder  
Karin Perry posted a link to this piece on her Facebook page this week: http://www.theacornschool.com/news/the-imagination-of-the-child/. I applaud the author who opens the piece by talking about protecting the young mind. I sometimes do think we push kids to grow up way too quickly. As someone who took on adult responsibilities early, I know it might have been better to have a more "normal" adolescence. But some of us do not get the leisure of choosing. Things are thrust upon us. And another thing I have learned is that few of us grow up in that idyllic two parent, white picket fence, stay at home Mom world that the 50s and 60s seemed intent on convincing me was real.

However, I had some mixed feelings about the next part of the article: "Imagination is so rich and important that I cannot understand why any parent would not actively prevent exposure to modern-world electronic gadgets, screens, films and literature that will encumber the minds and especially the imagination of their children. Let beauty reign within the subconscious minds of our children, not fear and disturbing images cultivated by their amazing brains." You see, I agreed with this sentiment about letting beauty reign, but apparently, as the old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Because after this sentence, the author talks about what is beautiful and should be shared and what is not beautiful and should be barred.

What is deemed beautiful? The classics, of course. "I stand for the old-fashioned values of traditional literature, classical poetry, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Dickens, Shakespearean plays, and the great writers who will still be read in future years" Yes, this is certainly beautiful. But much of it is not for children, was not written for children. Traditional literature was adopted by children who, while sitting on the outskirts of the fire or the gathering room, listened to the stories and loved to hear them again and again. Shades of Bruno Bettelheim!

What is not so beautiful (and by proxy I guess that means it is "ugly"?): Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and (very curiously) Game of Thrones. It is ugly because it can damage readers:
"Buying sensational books is like feeding your child with spoons of added sugar, heaps of it, and when the child becomes addicted it will seek more and more, which if related to books, fills the bank vaults of those who write un-sensitive books for young children!"

Sigh. If you read yesterday's post, you have already seen my dismay about how some view contemporary literature for young readers. Here it is again, and not even wrapped in any sort of veneer, just a flat-out indictment of how this literature can warp kids permanently. Sometimes, I think folks like this ascribe more power to books. Books, in their view, can cause irreparable damage. I think if this were the case, there would be many more damaged adults running around. My friends and I often remark that if we become what we read most of us would be detectives (Nancy Drew), nurses (Cherry Ames), nannies (every single Harlequin romance), wizards (even before Harry Potter there were magical beings in books) but few of us would be teachers and librarians. Books can, certainly, form us, shape us. So can music and art and life experiences, too.

Books were my friends when I felt alone and isolated. They were my answer when I went to them with questions no one else would answer (or with questions I was too afraid to ask anyone else). Books were and are my comfort when I am afraid or sad. And books bring me great joy, To deprive readers of any of this is a disservice.
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Sherry BorgrenSherryTeach on May 13th, 2016 03:19 am (UTC)
Addiction
I just read that article. I'm still shaking my head over the line about "addiction to unacceptable literature." Among the many reasons I select a book for my classroom library is the hope that a particular book will cause reading addiction in at least one of my students.