Monday, September 20, 2010

Tough Issues in KidLit

Mary PoppinsI've been following two very interesting, worthwhile discussions in the kidlit blogosphere today. Both have been discussed before but deserve revisiting from time to time:

#1: What to Do About Classic Children's Books that are Racist?
Monica Edinger (and Phil Nel via link) tackle the issue of how to deal with racism in classic children's literature. Should we forbid kids to read the original versions of well-loved books like Mary Poppins or Dr. Doolittle because of the obvious and offensive racism that exists in the novels? Should we allow them to read only the "updated" versions of these texts? Or allow them to read the originals, but only with supervision and discussion? Very tricky. Very interesting. Very thoughtful insights by Edinger, Nel, and the many folks who have commented on their posts.

#2: What Is the Opposite of "Clean"?
Young Adult author Jo Knowles discusses the problem of classifying books that don't contain sex or swears as "clean." She writes, "I know the people who make "CLEAN BOOKS" lists are well intentioned. This is not an attack or accusation. It's a plea for all of us to think about the potential power of our words." There are many amazing, important books for children and teens that deal with tough issues, and I agree that it can be dangerous to think of these books as lesser because a swear word or difficult content prevent them from showing up on a "clean books" list. It's even more dangerous to start thinking of them, as Knowles notes, as the opposite of "clean." Again, her blog post as well as the insightful comments give much food for thought.

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