Why you don't need to read classic children’s books

Why you don't need to read classic children’s books

Have you ever revisited some of your childhood favourites, then got to a part of the story and really cringed?

Many children’s classic books haven’t aged well. From Little House on the Prairie with its casual remarks that Native Americans are “better off dead”, to The Secret Garden claiming that black people "aren’t respectable". And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet we have fond memories sharing certain stories with our families growing up, so we often return to them when we have families of our own, only to get to a part of the book and wonder, How was this ever ok?!”

Sure, we can say the books were of their time. But when was racism ever acceptable? 

Too many people see “classic” and assume that means “approved” – as if it needs to be read. But it would be worth being more critical of that term. Think of “classic” as synonymous with “antique”, and maybe that’s not so interesting to kids.

We also need to be aware that what our parents thought was ok for us might not be suitable for our children. Times have changed, views have changed – so why don’t we read books that reflect the current world rather than something that will always be stuck in the past?

Rather than jumping straight for your childhood favourites, check out the amazing books that have been published for children in the past few years. Books that are more inclusive of race, religion, and disability. Books that break down gender stereotypes and the gender binary. Books that encourage children to explore their emotions and find ways to support their mental health. 

It's much easier taking today’s inclusive books to show children that they can be whatever they want to be, rather than showing children an older, problematic book and having to explain how this was considered normal in the past but isn’t acceptable now.

Children are our future, so we should focus on giving them books that depict the future we want them to have.

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