Tuesday, February 27, 2007


An anonymous poster bligged: "When I read LHitBG to my kids (two boys, two girls) I sang the song (fairly tunelessly) and made no mention of what it was about: the age they were I think it was just a nonsense song to them, and they probably heard 'darkey' as 'donkey' anyway. There are other songs in the Little House series that are confusing or nonsensical, especially to children in the UK who don't know a lot of the history of the States. When they were older and there was reference to 'darkies' in Little Town on the Prairie, I was able to talk to the 10 yr old that was listening and explain it properly, and the children got the idea very quickly. You don't need to censor the past for them, I don't think."

Some valid points, and I agree--if I were reading to my nine-year-old niece, that is the approach I would take. My problem with my five-year-old is I don't think he's ready for the explanations; I could be putting some ugly ideas and vocabulary into his head without any background, vocabulary that he might easily repeat to other children without having much of an idea of what he was saying.

But of course, we don't want or expect every children's book to be completely appropriate for our five-year-olds. At least, I hope we don't.


Anonymous Anonymous bligged...

I found myself altering books that made references to how boys and girls always hated each other and didn't play together, because when my kid was five he had *no idea* this was an important boy meme. I just didn't want to start putting the idea in his head.

Now he's eight and has done MLK day in school, and he still found _The Drinking Gourd_ (an easy reader about the Underground Railroad) mind-boggling -- people were slaves because they were black? He knew some history but finally made the connection to real people. I'm also still pleased by his inability to identify blacks (well, in his class Abdullah is darker than Onyx, so why is he not black but she is? ).

I find myself more likely to hide ideas than words, though. I've even read curse words to him, which surprised me and doesn't always happen if I'm awake enough to think ahead.

2/27/2007 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous bligged...

Thank you for quoting me :-)
Yes, aged 5 or 6, definitely too early to go into these things. Skimming the odd word or changing it can leave bumpy subjects for later years. Children can filter out what they don't understand if what they are focusing on is the story and the pull of the characters. My kids never asked me to stop and explain what a 'washpan' was, either. Now I am reading These Happy Golden Years to the third child (an 11 yr old boy) and we have happily gone through the entire set of books. I think the last child (daughter) will be ready for Silver Lake in the later summer when she's nearly nine.

2/27/2007 11:36 PM  
Blogger ElsKushner bligged...

This is something I struggle with a lot too-- I can't remember what we did about "Big Woods" when we read it to our daughter last year (she's 6 now, 5 then) but we did talk a bit about the Oompa-Loompas recently when reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I think we basically said that Roald Dahl didn't know much about actual people who live in Africa, and he just made them up from what he imagined, which wasn't exactly accurate.

3/04/2007 7:49 PM  

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