Overprotection Series

Breaking the literary bubble

As I begin this series of posts on “overprotecting” our children, I want to clarify that this is more of an ongoing conversation and clearly seen through my lens as the mother of a 5-year-old living rurally in the State of Maine. I recognize that some of the topics I will discuss are not culturally comprehensive and, plainly put, I feel privileged to be able to have some of these choices to make at all. That said, let’s start this analysis in the world of readily available literature in the United States.

fullsizeoutput_89cThe sheer amount of accessible literature here in the U.S. is reason as a parent to rejoice, but also perhaps cringe a bit at the decision-making process of what to bring into the lives of our children. We are presented with older classics that perpetuate stereotypes of women and men, often vilify people of color and present heterosexuality as the only option, but often acutely address misfortune, fear, death, jealousy, anxiety, despair and sacrifice amongst others, versus newer materials that are much more inclusive and less xenophobic, but often relate a sugarcoated reality and don’t help our children work through their emotions, achieve true empathy or bolster coping skills. As I recently read in Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk, Diane Baker and Anne Hill, “Somewhere between the pitfalls of ignorance and appropriate lies the path of cultural education.”

I have an overabundance of children’s fiction and nonfiction from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, as my own library has been supplemented with hundreds of books from Scholastic and Rigby, for which my mother was a sales representative and accumulated quite a selection. What I am finding as a homeschooling family is that these resources are wonderful, but also deficient and in need of current supplemental materials. They often omit historical facts, are extremely stereotypical in gender roles, mistreat people of color and use terminology that is now outdated. That said, I see them as extremely valuable and use them in what is often referred to as “teachable moments.” I explain why a word is no longer acceptable or how history has proven a theory or policy incorrect or misguided. Many people choose to completely disregard such literature, but I find that to be a disservice to our children. If we brush our historical and societal mistakes under the rug than where is the progress shown? I have found that, even at a young age, my daughter gains deeper appreciation and insight when she recognizes my fallibility as a mother and the same can be said about society as a whole. We are ever-evolving and our progress can only be shown through recognition of our errors and making the choice to do better.

This leads me to questions for anyone reading this. What are some of the past and current books you enjoy with your children? Do you avoid hard topics? Do you use older literature and use the “teachable moments?” Do you strictly stick to new literature? As I said in the beginning of this post, this is mainly a discussion and I would love your input. Please feel free to share in the comments here or at any of my social media outlets. Looking forward to hearing from you.

6 thoughts on “Breaking the literary bubble”

  1. We read books by the dozens, and I would estimate that about half are classic and the other half modern. Like you, I stop and discuss the language used in the older books. Oftentimes, I will pair a more modern, more “woke” book with a classic that contains the outdated stereotypes and insensitivities, especially when the older book includes any sort of white-washed history. That said, at this age (6) I do avoid books that teach about historical events like Thanksgiving from a purely colonized point of view. Instead, I do my best to introduce her to the point of views of the indigenous people. We do touch upon the ugly stuff, but only lightly, at this age. Teachable moments, for sure.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation, Amy! I find that a lot of time I stumble into the hard stuff unprepared and not having remembered the ugly bits from when I read it so many years ago. I’m sure we all have certain sensitivities, but I have found one of the biggest we have is when it comes to stories with missing/dead parents. I find it to be a common theme in SO MANY stories, it has become an interesting way for Petunia to view her adoption as something to celebrate, as so many of the children in these stories are left to fend for themselves or live with horrible caretakers.


  2. From a teacher standpoint, 😘! The research points to kids being most well-adjusted, empathetic, and healthy long-term if they a) have trusting relationships with close adults who are attuned to their emotional needs and can respond appropriately, and b) have the sense of safety to be able to explore their worlds with others and independently. Risks and failure and confusion are important, too, as long as she knows the has resources to draw on to help her work through them- both within and outside herself. Choice is vital, so she can follow her own interests and start to build who she is. And I am always a fan of building as diverse and balanced a library of strong protagonists as possible! The world is global; our stories should be, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so excited for her, as she grows into her own, and all of the world that is at her feet in the form of literature! I am trying to give her a strong foundation of when to question something that seems outdated, how to explore independently and find differing opinions, and have fun while doing it! I love your last point about being a part of the larger world. We read some folk tales from other countries and love them, although there often seems to be bits lost in translation. If you come across interesting titles in your travels, please send them our way!

      Liked by 1 person

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