What do you think of when you remember Charlotte’s Web? Maybe pigs and spiders, or perhaps you are surrounded by memories of cuddling under a blanket and reading, possibly the first stirrings of recognition that there was a relationship between the food on your plate and animals. (As a Jew who kept kosher, the book might have been an easier read for me) Whatever your memories are, they probably didn’t include high school students having affairs with their teachers or participating in a host of other immoral and un-childlike behaviors.
Which is why it was incredibly disturbing to me when I approached a copy of Charlotte’s Web prominently displayed in a bookstore on a shelf advertising “Recommended Reading for Children”, and found that the book featured next to it included the above depravities.
What is the manager of that bookstore thinking? And how sad is it that parents can’t allow their children the liberating pleasure of freely browsing through the children’s section of a bookstore or the library without having to worry about what they will find. With all the (necessary) warnings about children being accidentally exposed to pornography and other evils on the web, how about a little concern for what they will find in what we think of as safe locations?
Using judgment and taking the responsibility for what children see should be an obligation every children’s librarian and bookstore owner accepts. The fact that the government shouldn’t censor reading material is unrelated to whether adults in positions of trust should. In the years that passed between when my eldest and youngest daughters each became voracious readers and devoted bookshelf browsers I saw a scary change in the offerings on those shelves. I’m not talking age appropriate realism – I’m talking age inappropriate depictions and the presentation of deviation as the norm. What a sad reality it is when any caring parent today has to know that the sheltered harbors of their childhood, the libraries and bookstores, are no longer protected environments