Wandering around town today with family, we ended up at Chapters. And daughter and I ended up in the teacup, reading books. One might think that reading new, popular children’s books would be an illuminating, inspiring, high-quality experience. But no.
I find myself saddened by the negativity, self-consciousness and sarcasm found in many (not all!) contemporary children’s books.
Negativity: many scenes of children being excluded, made fun of, ridiculed, often by their peers, for being different. That the plot twists to turn differences into a strength isn’t enough for me to embrace this repetition of bullying, exclusionary social norms.
Self-consciousness: high levels of awareness of physical appearance and how one is perceived by others, rather than simply allowing characters to exist and enjoy life. And, my brain isn’t with me tonight, but what do you call that thing where the characters know they’re in a book? Yeah, that, done way too many times.
Sarcasm: adult levels of humour, irony, personal put-downs, grown-up word play, all of which (in my opinion) tarnishes the sweet innocent presence and authenticity of childhood.
Oh yes. And technology. Lots and lots of technological references.
I acknowledge problems with past children’s literature. That’s another post (lack of diversity, racism, etc.). However, when I read past books (and some present books) with my daughter, there’s a sense of being transported to a beautiful, magical world. Of creativity, manageable problems, healthy learning opportunities.
Are today’s children different? Are they not really children? Has innocence been lost? Or do we want it to disappear, and instead embrace young knowingness, early adult-hood, extreme self-awareness?
Or, do these books exist for the adults, for whom childhood is now a hip, cool thing to celebrate, and these books enable them to bring their hipsterdom into their parenting roles?
Don’t know. Don’t like it. Want to create something different. Know it’s out there, too – I’ve read it and loved it. Looking for more!