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10 August 2016 @ 12:42 pm
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This recent blog post gave me pause: http://www.slate.com/blogs/nightlight/2016/08/04/bemoaning_the_licensed_character_commodity_garbage_that_makes_up_most_children.html. This is a harsh criticism of the licensed characters that populate a great many books for children. I do acknowledge their existence. I also know as true that many kids will gravitate toward them and eschew award winners.

In part, Bruno Bettelheim addresses some of these concerns in THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT. Kids ask for repeated readings of fairy tales for a reason. He noted that this demand for the same story over and over again "allowed children to grapple with their fears in remote, symbolic terms. If they could read and interpret these fairy tales in their own way, he believed, they would get a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Bettelheim thought that by engaging with these socially evolved stories, children would go through emotional growth that would better prepare them for their own futures."

Calling such books subliterature is nothing new. Comic, magazines, and series books had long been labeled as subiterature by many. Yet, how can we use the term when these books use the same literary elements as the "classics"? Some of the classics do not hold up under close scrutiny. Some do. It doe not matter, though. If a child requests the same story repeatedly, there is some sort of need the story addresses. I know I was chagrined when the former residents of the back bedroom wanted this book:



The fact that they could touch buttons and make sound effects was fun. Of course, there was also a nightly reading of THE RAIN BABIES and THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR.





Bless my BH's heart, he complied. And I bought the books with the buttons. I did not consider them subliterature. I just considered them a "book." The blog author writes about them in much more harsh terms: "These stories are the juvenile equivalent of pornography: They aim to gratify base desires as voluptuously as possible. " I do not, of course, think of these books are the juvenile equivalent of pornography. I this of them as reading material. On the shelves of my former middle school classroom were THE BABY SITTERS CLUB, SWEET VALLEY HIGH, and the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. But also on those shelves were other titles, perhaps one the blogger might deem more literary and less subliterature. The bottom line is that students had the choice of what to read. Since they had choice, they were more likely to engage in reading more often. And that is my bottom line.
 
 
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