The variety of books aimed at children and young adults is astounding: Pop-up picture books, cardboard and cloth and plastic books, and puzzle-piece books for wee ones. Stories designated for specific age groups. Tales for teenagers.
Studies suggest that the old-fashioned print books are best for babies and tots, adding tactile input to the visual and auditory stimulation when a parent reads to a child. And screen addiction has been found to plague small children whose parents stick them in front of a computer or tablet instead of encouraging other forms of play and learning.
Older children now have an enormous variety of stories aimed at their evolving minds and social needs.
But I sometimes wonder if the publishing industry is helping or hindering childhood development. Are the vocabulary and story lines aimed at, for example, preschoolers too simplistic? Are the tales for teens guiding them toward an understanding of adult life?
I cannot help recalling the ridiculous calls to ban one book or another (like Bambi) as “too violent” for children. And the tendency to overprotect has not diminished.
But children are not well served by cloistering. How are they to deal with the inevitable trials and follies of adult life and of our societies if they are kept in the dark until they are old enough to be tossed out into the glare of reality?
Not so long ago, the classic children’s books did not speak down to children, but simply told an interesting or exciting tale from a child’s point of view. And the children who read them were not harmed by the experience.
As for me, I read Nancy Drew mysteries at the age of six. I read Daphne DuMaurier novels at the age of fourteen. And Shakespeare was mandatory reading in highschool. I survived. Indeed, I developed an appreciation for literature and language. Will the children spoon fed literary pabulum fare as well as past generations “forced” to read Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Louisa M. Alcott, Hemingway, Arthur C. Clarke, Agatha Christie, and the Brontë sisters? We will see.
What books did you read in childhood? Did they affect your view of the world?