Many of us grew up with “the classics” – whether they were read to us out loud or we tackled them on our own, there are those timeless children’s books we remember fondly. Maybe too fondly.
I read a blog post recently on Rage Against the Minivan called “Things That Are Better in Retrospect.” She writes about her children’s reactions when they listened to Little House on the Prairie and The Secret Garden. Apparently, a chapter on pig slaughter and killing off everyone with cholera didn’t go over well.
These are children’s books! What are slaughter and plagues doing in there?
I forwarded the article to my mom, and she had a good answer for the reaction to these “timeless” novels: “I read an article on this topic a long time ago when we were homeschooling and wish I’d saved it. It had to do with the concept that people of days gone by had to deal much more directly with death, illness, injury, food preparation, etc. Ugly things were a part of daily life, and children were not exempt from these realities. Now, our lives and literature are much more sanitized. Those episodes in books were not meant to be shocking or overly dramatic, but simply reflect daily life. Nowadays gory stuff is inserted into a story, but back then, death & disease were all part of a day’s work.”
Yeah, kids have a much more sanitized life these days. My child’s most traumatic moment so far has been watching cookies get smashed. But in most ways, I’m okay with that. We’ll tackle those other life issues down the road. Or in a couple years when I read her Little House on the Prairie…
And today is the Ides of March – I don’t suggest doing Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” as a read-aloud book.