The Corruption of Children's Literature (Even in Catholic Schools)

June 1998By Inez Fitzgerald Storck

Inez Fitzgerald Storck is a stay-at-home mother of four in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

My husband and I have long realized the importance of literature in the lives of children, and have endeavored to provide our children with a good assortment of entertaining stories which are challenging intellectually and appropriate to their age level. For quite a few years we have seen the need to monitor books they check out of the public library. In addition to books which are obviously harmful, such as Judy Blume's novels, apparently innocuous stories such as teen romances can foster a premature interest in dating and romantic involvement. Science fiction often creates an atmosphere that is implicitly pagan -- for example, Anne McCaffrey's young adult volumes (her works for adults have explicitly objectionable themes). Too much reading that is totally accepting of our culture can subtly influence our young.

We felt comfortable on our charted course when one day one of our daughters handed us her seventh-grade reading list. She, as all our children, attends a Catholic school. A quick glance through the list of around 75 books revealed that we would have to help her in the selection process. The descriptions of some books referred to child abuse, sorcery, and other questionable subjects.

What began as a perusal of the reading list dragged on for months as I spent hours in the library trying to find nine books suitable for our daughter's monthly reports. I wrote a letter to the teacher voicing my concerns but received no response. Three years later, our youngest daughter brought home the same list. A number of titles on the list had made their way into the school library, and my daughter brought them home, wanting to know why she couldn't read many of them. She also checked out books for pleasure from the public library which had to be reviewed. Thus began a more intense study of dozens of children's and young adult novels.

I shared information about books on the school reading list with several other parents who joined me in sending letters to the principal, pastor, and school advisory board. To date the situation has not changed. Perhaps our school professionals are influenced by the commendations many of the books have received from the American Library Association and other secular groups. Or it may be that in today's permissive society even Catholics see censorship as a greater scandal than the risk of corrupting Christ's little ones.

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Problems with modern children's literature are regretfully ongoing or even worsening. No doubt there is often room for disagreement about particular books and the way certain themes are treated. In regard to ohter books, there will clearly be insurmountable problems. It would be great to have access to Online reviews and discussions which can be searched by Title or author. Increasingly children here in Australia are being encouraged to sign up to reading challenges and book clubs in which the book choices are set by librarians or others. The idea that parents might wish to have a role in discerning reading choices is considered wierd and anachronistic- and of course tantamount to censorship which can not possibly be countenanced.
I favoured the Series of Unfortunate Events which I feel has a lot of biting satire of the moral and philsophical bankruptcy of our modern culture. Many adults are revealed to be fools and some are clearly wicked. But many others are shown to be good or trying to be good. The ends do not justify the means in Snicket's world view. This series introduces older children to the problem of evil without drowning them in it.
Anyway- I will be looking for online forums or reviews on this subject

Posted by: aconway
March 23, 2007 01:40 AM EDT
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