Changing Trends in Children’s Literature

Something that has been bothering me for a while is the trend in recent years to include or focus the topic of some children’s books around themes that are too sophisticated or unsuitable (I think). At our CPTLA conference last May, Paul MacDonald  (Children’s Book Shop in Beecroft)  spoke of the line of topics written for adults & teenagers becoming ‘fuzzy’. He put this down to the growing market for this age group intensifying with the likes of the Twilight series etc. I think this ‘fuzziness’ may be now penetrating some picture story books/novels aimed at primary aged children. I showed a book at our last network meeting called About a Girl which dealt with a lesbian relationship between 2  young girls (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).  In my last batch of books from ASO there was a book titled The Glass House which I can only describe as ‘weird”. It deals with the issues of of paranoia, perfection, isolation, vandalism & with the main character suffering from OCD. Whilst I feel strongly against ‘censorship’ … it seems now that no topics are taboo. Yes these issues may be real life, but are they topics we want to see included in books for our students?  (remember they are in primary school) What do you think?    (Just thought I would open the discussion)

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3 Responses to Changing Trends in Children’s Literature

  1. Kim says:

    Can’t agree enough, Virginia. I was just reflecting on this issue last week when Paul spoke of a story involving a young girl dealing with her mother’s journey with breast cancer. Many TLs had felt they could not buy it for their library. The issue of ‘soft censorship’ is always on our minds. I struggle with this too. On one hand the issues are becoming more confronting (reflecting real life?) but we must choose very carefully what we do buy and add to our collections. I am interested to hear the opinions of more TLs, this type of pressure is not the same when purchasing for a public library collection. How do others use their collection development skills/priorities to justify certain purchases? If we don’t supply and support good readers who need challenges, they will get these titles elsewhere. I have my own set of feelings about filtering/ censorship and this is really challenged working in a primary school, and a Catholic primary school at that. maybe some professional development, or clear guidelines as to our role in purchasing may be helpful along the line?
    Thanks for beginning an interesting conversation!

  2. sherryn moore says:

    I agree totally.
    Through TV and the cinemas there is enough of the ‘out there’ content being forced onto our children and at times with very little sensitivity. Parents are losing control over what their children are exposed to now, years ago they could monitor what they watched on TV or at the movies, but now with the internet they can download any TV program or movie and have access to all types of content, if not at home at their friend’s house. Fortunately we do still have control at a school level to filter and monitor the content they are exposed to.
    I know there is the real dilemma between exposing children to some of the realities of the life and protecting their innocence.
    As primary school librarians in a Catholic school we are also guided by principals and have a moral responsibility to respect the dignity of all – that includes students and in particular the parents who have entrusted their children in our care, so I think parents should have a voice in such issues.
    One way to get a sense of where your parents stand with these issues is to ‘ask them’. If you are unsure about the content of a text and whether it is appropriate get a sense of parents responses.
    I would also make sure you had a ‘Book complaint’ procedure built into your Library policies. What to do when a parent does complain about the content of a text.

    I love the saying ‘When in doubt- there is no doubt’ you have to follow your instincts.

  3. Paula Russo says:

    I definitely did want to buy ‘Always Jack’ by Susanne Gervay – the book that includes the mum’s cancer diagnosis & treatment that Kim mentioned. I’ve just finished reading it & I really enjoyed it. I smiled alot & did shed a few tears. As with the other two Jack books, Jack is telling the story. He’s a teenager now. There are several storylines. Great family relationships book. The big issue is the Mum & Rob’s wedding but there is also school friends, Nanna getter older and wobblier, changing feelings for his friend Anna, cultural assignment at school that brings up Grandad’s time in the Vietnam and his friend Christopher’s family experience of the war in their country, feelings about Rob’s son Leo and about 20 pages of an 148 page book about breast cancer. It’s not gruesome at all. I would thoroughly recommend it. A great read aloud & lots of issues to talk about, not just cancer. On the other hand, I will be returning our OCD friend that Virginia mentioned. We subscribe to ASO picture books but unfortunately more and more titles are directed towards the older kids and although some of our Stage 2 & Stage 3 teachers are switched onto picture books, most of these just sit. At $30 I don’t want any book that will just sit.

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