Not the Charlotte’s Web I Recall

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

2 thoughts on “Not the Charlotte’s Web I Recall”

  1. Let me preface this by saying that I came here as a result of writing a piece that is critical of KSFO’s “hate talkers” and thereby finding your husband’s single blog entry there. It was a delightful and honest perspective on his love for big, powerful autos.

    However, this is the first post here that I’ve read, and I must candidly disagree. You see, I think that you have your morals on this issue entirely backward. It’s a common failure, but as a person who is active in promoting an ethical and moral vision for the future, it is not as excusable as it would be in others.

    “Normalcy” is not moral behavior.

    “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.”

    I have a vastly different perspective on this, perhaps best summed up with the observation that “innocence is not ignorance.”

    Unfortunately, it is a reality that young people have to deal with situations of moral and ethical consequence before they are given the “age appropriate” information. I recall this as being a particularly common situation in my increasingly distant youth, but in general we took the position, as children, that what our parents did not know would not cause them to react inappropriately.

    And the more “traditional” and “God-fearing” the family was, the more true I found the observation to be. Catholic school, don’t’cha know. Oh, and six months living with an Observant Orthodox twenty-something. Oy VEH!

    That could easily have been a situation comedy.

    Anyhoo – “The Innocence of Childhood” is one of several Victorian inventions we’d be better off without; an ‘innocence’ that is only physically possible when parents can keep their children sheltered from the darker realities of human nature.

    I do understand the reflex, but all too often, the “protection” is limited to maintaining a state of ignorance, and exacerbated by a moral code that is kept equally isolated from the examination of either original ethical intent or practical modern consequences.

    For instance; it’s certainly easier to wish to exclude an age-appropriate book that explains what lesbianism is – a family with two mommies – than to explain why it’s not appropriate for a good observant Jewish girl to explore that area of human nature.

    But that is what is referred to as a “teachable moment.”

    Besides, correct me if I am wrong, but is not the word “sin” derived from a Hebrew word that means “mistake?”

    And how is it that human beings learn best? Odd, I think, that we seem to be designed that way…

  2. i relate on quite a personal level to what susan lapin said. i am a graduate student in library science, which one would think should be about as benign a major as one could have in college. but leave it to the liberal domination in the humanities to make just about ANYting in life controversial and subjected, ironically, to their extreme intolerance.
    in one class, for example, i was met with almost unspeakable venom from my fellow students when i objected to the idea of two lesbians forcing a small-town library located in a predominantly traditional, christian town to have books in the children’s section promoting lesbianism! in another class, i was met with a similar response when i objected to a particular book by judy blume, in which she encourages casual, pre-martial sex among teens, from being in school libraries.

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