December 13, 2017

Open Mic: Is Narnia too Scary for Kids?

By Chaplain Mike

On her•meneutics, Christianity Today’s blog for women, Elrena Evans has written a post called, “Why There’s No Narnia in Our Home.”

I’d like to hear your opinions on it today.

It turns out that Ms. Evans takes a very aggressive role in controlling the reading material to which her children are exposed. She was involved in a Ph.D. program in children’s literature when pregnant with her first child. This set her to organizing and purging her bookshelves, putting many volumes away in boxes until she felt her child would be ready to read them. As life went on, she testifies,

Things got complicated when my daughter started reading at a very early age. Like many parents of early readers, I found that books that were otherwise fine suddenly weren’t, when they were being read by a child much younger than their intended audience. I re-read the Little House on the Prairie series from her perspective and nearly had a heart attack. Narnia became a wasteland of bloodshed and violence. Even Christopher Robin was running around shooting things with his gun.

Go to her•meneutics, read and think through Ms. Evans’s perspective. Please. I want our Open Mic conversation to take place in response to what she says. I’m not really interested in any knee jerk reactions someone might have to the brief summary I have written here.

Then return and let’s have a discussion about parenting as followers of Jesus, guiding and protecting our children, and what may or may not be appropriate reading material in our homes.

Comments

  1. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what it is that is so shocking in the Little House books. Is it the death of Jack? Mary’s blindness? The death of Laura and Almanzo’s son? She seems to want to protect her child from sad stories, and while I can understand that to some extent ( I wouldn’t give Anne Frank to a 5 year old to read) I’d say that it’s only in the last 100 years that children could grow up without exposure to serious illness, death, or threat of death of people that were close to them. Small pox, polio, cholera, measles, scarlet fever, typhus and simple lack of medical technology led to earlier and more unpredictable deaths.

  2. david carlson says:

    typical 1st child syndrome. Over anxious, everything needs to be perfect.

    By the time the 4th roles around she will be leaving her Cosmo’s on the table. (which, btw, is not suitable for adults)

  3. OK, I have to admit *Little House on the Prairie* freaked my then 4yo son out–it was the potential threat of war with the Native Americans–the fear was portrayed in a very tangible way that connected with him. (And then there are those who want to ban it based on the way the Native Americans are portrayed, so pick you reason.)

    However, in general my children do not seem disturbed by death, danger and sadness in otherwise age-appropriate books (so yes to Babar, Charlotte’s Web, St. George and the Dragon, etc.) Sometimes it gives us food for discussion, sometimes they just accept it as part of life.

    To me the whole *point* of literature is to introduce children to life–including the bad parts. Good literature gives them a safe vehicle for exploring and containing fear and danger. As G. K. Chesterton says, the child already knows that dragons exist; literature gives him a St. George to kill the dragons. I would be more concerned about representing to my children a pastel nice world where nothing ever goes wrong; that would be neither kind nor wise.

    However, from reading the article, it sounds like the author is beginning to understand that.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I would be more concerned about representing to my children a pastel nice world where nothing ever goes wrong; that would be neither kind nor wise.

      What Dr Morden called “Fantasy Reality” and “Fantasy Christianity” in his seminal essay Sex, Death, and Christian Fiction.

  4. This is sort of humorous to me. My dad would read Tales from the Brother’s Grimm and those stories were eerie and not at all like Disney. I didn’t seem to have problems due to those stories. I also read The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe when I was nine or ten. My parents were very strict and monitored what reading/viewing material I brought into the home but, I don’t think they for once thought LIttle House on the Prairie or Winnie the Poo would give me nightmares.
    Perhaps this lady is trying to keep her children from experiencing sadness, and if that is the case, then that could be problematic. However, if she just doesn’t like violence then that might be a different matter.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This is sort of humorous to me. My dad would read Tales from the Brother’s Grimm and those stories were eerie and not at all like Disney.

      In other words, he read the uncut, unabridged, COOL versions.

      Note to parents everywhere: When you’re 10 years old and male, EVERYTHING with action-packed hyperviolence is KEWL. Just like EVERYTHING gross & disgusting is hilarious. It’s sort of “Bart Simpson Syndrome”.

  5. Dan Allison says:

    I think most of us underestimate the ability of kids to absorb and process these stories, but we are not born “blank slates.” To think that we are is a fallacy that gained currency with the Enlightenment (primarily through John Locke and his American disciple, Jefferson). The blank slate fallacy is still perpetuated today by what is popularly called “liberalism,” the idea that engineering our environment can change our nature. Despite the work of scientists like Steven Pinker (who have entirely debunked the idea of the “blank slate”), there’re still substantial numbers of people (many of them teaching in universities or sitting on judicial benches) who buy into Enlightenment era thinking.

    Any Ph.D. program in children’s literature would be deficient it it did not require Bruno Bettelheim’s “The Meaning of Enchantment.” I’d also suggest some of Lewis’ own essays regarding the power and function of fables and fairy tales. The symbols in these stories stir and arouse our spirit and our deeper, true humanity. Depriving the mind and spirit of this nourishment is analogous to denying nutrition to the body. As for that ancient story about the Romans nailing a nice, innocent man to a cross after beating him senseless, it’s clearly too violent, blood-filled, and disturbing for children, isn’t it?

    • Dan — It’s “The Uses of Enchantment,” and I thought of mentioning that book, too. I imagine Evans has read it if she was in a PhD program on children’s lit.

      • Dan Allison says:

        Yes, thanks for the correction! It’s been that many years since I read it, but the main ideas are so powerful that they’ve stayed with me.

  6. I’m not a parent, so I can’t say I really understand but I guess I can say two things. First, I sometimes feel that parents either over-estimate or under-estimate their children. If a young kid asks about suicide (no I wouldn’t want my kid asking about it either), even if it is explained (“sometimes, when people are really sad, they will hurt themselves really badly for attention”) I don’t think they will get it. Other times, I think children are often quite able to deal with “adult” issues. When I think of Coraline, I’m thinking of the very adult issue of how desire for a happy, blissful, aesthetic existence can be used to lure the unsuspecting. Even Pinocchio had that theme.

    Secondly (and this has already been mentioned), when Christians in particular began banning books, movies, tv shows for their violent or sexual contact, I have to ask those Christians when is someone to young to read the Bible? Must me censor God’s words as being equally unholy? The Bible contains cannibalism, massacres, orgies, and all manner of unsightly things. Surely then, the mere presence of such material is not enough to make something ban-worthy.

    • Wasn’t there – or was there? – a bowdlerised version of the Bible in the 19th century especially for delicate young ladies to read so that nothing shocking to the sensibilities of the gently-reared would come to their view?

      Or was that a piece of contemporary satire about the craze for what Dickens lambasted in “Our Mutual Friend” as “Podsnappery”?

      “A certain institution in Mr Podsnap’s mind which he called ‘the young person’ may be considered to have been embodied in Miss Podsnap, his daughter. It was an inconvenient and exacting institution, as requiring everything in the universe to be filed down and fitted to it. The question about everything was, would it bring a blush into the cheek of the young person? And the inconvenience of the young person was, that, according to Mr Podsnap, she seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need at all. There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the young person’s excessive innocence, and another person’s guiltiest knowledge. Take Mr Podsnap’s word for it, and the soberest tints of drab, white, lilac, and grey, were all flaming red to this troublesome Bull of a young person.”

    • As both a teacher and parent, my experience has been that adults of all kinds routinely underestimate children. Kids are capable of handling much more than most adults give them credit for, though they do not process it the same way adults would. Relatively few adults are really able to talk to kids without talking down to them.

      Evangelicals sometimes have a doulbe standard when it comes to banning stuff: anything sexual is out immediately, but violence gets through much more, especially if it is accepted in the larger culture. I remember my brother and his wife taught for a year at the missionary boarding school we had attended and they showed the movie “Robocop” to a mixed age group, including very young elementary kids. Completely inappropriate. Apparently it passed muster because it didn’t have sex or nudity.

      • They being the school administration and other staff, not my brother and his wife; they were appalled.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I remember my brother and his wife taught for a year at the missionary boarding school we had attended and they showed the movie “Robocop” to a mixed age group, including very young elementary kids. Completely inappropriate. Apparently it passed muster because it didn’t have sex or nudity.

        John, there is even a “Just Like WWF/WWE, Except CHRISTIAN (TM)!” pro wrestling franchise out there whose big selling point is “No cursing or scantily-clad women”.

        And I have noticed a pattern in the Kyle’s Mom Activists Uplifting and Protecting us proles (for our own unwashed good, of course). The anti-violence ones are either pro-sex (or don’t care) and the anti-sex ones don’t care about (or are pro-) violence. Like abortion and capital punishment, you always find pro one and anti the other. It’s one of those Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe.

      • It’s not necessarily a double standard. Children encounter violence from an early age, whether it’s fights on the playground, smashing bugs, a pet getting hit by a car, Grandma passing on, etc. If they live on a farm, it’s even more true. They don’t get exposed to sex unless an adult deliberately does so, and there’s a reason we put adults in jail who do that kind of thing.

        That doesn’t mean Robocop’s okay for seven-year-olds.

        • Children might encounter violence or death, but they don’t encounter a giant robot-man shooting criminals with his robot gun.

          I think it is a double standard. I certainly don’t think that young children should be exposed to sexual content, but not talking about sex sure doesn’t help either.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Also, there might be a difference between how fantasy violence and real violence is perceived by the hypothetical kid. If they can figure out (and kids have shown better discernment on this than their Activist Parents) “a giant robot man shooting criminals with his robot gun” is fantasy violence, they should be able to handle it without the fear it could really happen to them.

            It’s like the idea (passed back-and-forth over the Lost Genre Guild) that real-world-background Romance might actually be more damaging than fantasy-background Sword & Sorcery. Because the REAL background makes the appearance of a RL Sparkling Edward more plausible to the Bella wanna-be. I know when I write a romance about an imaginary furry critter that I’m not going to find her anywhere IRL.

    • Eric Hinkle says:

      The Bible contains cannibalism? When and where is this? I’d lie if I said I was a Biblical scholar, but this is news to me!

      • The only one I can think of right now is a short story in 2 Samuel, I think (I could also be totally wrong, but I’m pretty sure it involved one of the kings of Israel after it was split). The Babylonians (again, fuzzy memory) put Jerusalem (?) under siege, cutting off all of the food. It got so bad that two mothers conspired to eat their young children before starving themselves. I think that one of the mother’s children were eaten, but the other backed out at the last minute.

        • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

          Yep, that’s one of major examples. What makes it really messed up is that the women went to the king to judge between them because the second woman backed out!

  7. This is an area of our modern US (Western?) life that has irritated me for a while.

    Growing up I been in the back room of a small slaughter house (saw a calf that came from a slaughtered cow one time, a row of pig heads another, and various other “surgical” operations on cattle), fished and prepared them to eat, watched puppies and cats born, been at the birthing of a calf that involved very hard kicks with boots and the use of what can only be described as modified off road tire chains, I saw “The Longest Day” and “Bridge Over the River Kwai” while in grade school on the big screen. And so on.

    We played soldier, football in the back yard, baseball, etc… and got hurt a times. Sometimes the hurt involved a cast. Not me but I was a minority but that line drive into the eye made me cry for a very long time.

    Now I’ve never hunted or prepped more than fish. And I’ve only killed a few small animals to put them out of their misery. And I was never in the military.

    I also went to a few funerals and weddings while in grade school and even before.

    And I’ve firmly decided that many adults and parents these days are horribly wrong in “protecting” their children. Horribly.

    At what point do we introduce children to the real world. Current trends are headed for 18 or later. There’s a strong trend to “let them be kids” until then. Both inside and outside the church. (I think MS was of a similar mind set from my reading of him over the last few years.) Just how can we expect kids to magically turn into adults over a 1, 30, 300 day period. Making an YOUNG adult takes 10 years or so. And the longer you delay the start the later you usually delay the finish. And these days some never get to the finish. More than in the past I’d say.

    My kids are currently 18 and 20. They saw “Gladiator” when it came out. I explained it and we saw it on a rental on the small screen but my point was that this was the era that Jesus lived in. Life was cheap back then. And hard.

    “Little House on the Prairie”? Of course it’s for grade school kids. Even if this life doesn’t exist in our country it sure does (and worse) for most of the kids on the planet. How will they learn empathy for those with such a life if they can’t imagine it. And I see many who can’t.

    I firmly believe all kids should have seen the movie “Old Yeller” before they turn 10.

    To sum it up I feel that the goal of parents is to raise their children into responsible adults. With assistance from the church. Play time is great but there’s more to childhood than sugar and spice and everything nice.

    I’ll suit up now and I suspect I’m going to be flamed a bit.

    • I agree wholeheartedly.

    • I suspect you’re not going to be flamed much, David — based on the other comments, I think you’ve stated the consensus.

    • Josh in FW says:

      Thanks for the comments. I’m referring my wife to this comment so that she will know that I’m not the only one with these ideas in my head.

    • I’ve always understood the “let them be kids” argument to refer to exposing them to truly adult situations before they’re ready. Things like marketing sexy clothing to elementary aged children, encouraging them to grow up physically before they’re ready for it emotionally.

      I totally agree with your argument. Children shouldn’t be protected from real life. Stories that show fictional characters dealing with real life situations (birth, death, love, war, etc) in both positive and negative ways offer lessons that can make sense of the often senseless nature of these situations.

  8. It depends on the child.

    It depends on the child.

    It depends on the child.

    And on the parents a bit too.

    I have noticed that I am not always a very good predictor of exactly how my eldest (and more sensitive) daughter will react. This film had her crying her heart out for half an hour. Twice.

    • This is so true.

      It dep[ends on the child. I have brought up 6 children,who have passed down their books,each reacted in their own way .

      Ms Evans said that she reread the books from her daughters point of view…not possible…

      Let them read what they want and answer their queries,they will absorb issues at their own pace. It is not possible to take them out of the world and wrap them in cotton wool, the more information they have the more prepared they are for life.

  9. I would respond with something C.S. Lewis said about writing for children. He responded to the myth that children’s stories horrify children in this manner:

    “Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. Nothing will persuade me that this causes an ordinary child any kind of fear beyond what it wants, and needs, to feel. For, of course, it wants to be a little frightened.”

    He goes on to say:

    “And I think it is possible that by confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happens, you would not fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. For in the fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones; and the terrible figures are not merely terrible, but sublime….I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St. George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comfort than the idea of the police.”

    Lewis, On Three Ways of Writing for Children, from “Of Other Worlds.”

    And it has been mention that if Narnia, Little House on the Prarie and other similar books should be banished from the home, so should the Bible, which has graphic violence in it from beginning to end. Most of this idea that stories are frightening to children come from psychologists who seem to want to project their own phobias and complexes into these very children. *sigh*

    • Eric Hinkle says:

      I agree with your and Mister Lewis’ remarks 100%. I remember reading quite a few horrible books as a child without problems afterwards. Then again, I was fascinated with monsters and noble knights lopping off each others’ heads and such from a very young age. 😉

      At my own public library, they have some downright gruesome kid’s book still on the shelves, like an illustrated adaptation of The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice illustrated by Fred Gwynne (TV’s Herman Munster) which shows the little frogs and mice impaling each other through the belly with spears, lopping off heads, and slciing each other in half. It’s a war story, originally a parody of the Illiad, that doesn’t shy away from what bloodshed looks like. And I think it does a better job of showing the price of war than any amount of bloodless tales of the “Let’s all play together!” variety.

  10. I am very encouraged that Ms. Evans’ daughter was so simply able to pull her mother out of this fairytale that her mom had spun about life and bring her to a place where it is OK for death, fear, hope, and exuberant joy to be observed.

  11. *headdesk*

    Sometimes it feels as though we Christians are on some kind of a crusade to make the world think we are irremedially stupid.

    A statement like “Narnia became a wasteland of bloodshed and violence” betokens a complete literary tone-deafness, Ph.D program or no.

    (And yes, I did read the whole article; no, I’m not just knee-jerk responding to your summary; yes I understood that the punchline of the article was that maybe some of the removed books should come back out after all. I also bet that she didn’t choose the title “Why There’s No Narnia in Our Home” and is unhappy with her.meneutics having selected so misrepresentative a title. But none of that changes the fact that anyone who can read the Narnia stories as any kind of wasteland is blind to what literature is.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Sometimes it feels as though we Christians are on some kind of a crusade to make the world think we are irremedially stupid.

      THINK we are? I’ve had WAY too many “THE STUPID! IT BURNS!” moments around Christians.

      A statement like “Narnia became a wasteland of bloodshed and violence” betokens a complete literary tone-deafness, Ph.D program or no.

      “A nudnik is an idiot.
      A phudnik is a nudnik with a Ph.D.”
      Every Goy’s Guide to Common Jewish Expressions” (yes, it’s a real book)

  12. MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

    How young is too young for Narnia? I read it to my son when he was six.

    However, my sister and her husband are like that with my young niece – trying to shield her from anything “scarry” or sad. I really don’t think they’re doing her any favors. She is going to be in for a rude slap in the face when she gets to school, or when someone close to her dies. CS Lewis also said that children instinctively know that monsters are real, and that it is good for them to read stories of men and women going out to fight the monsters with valor.

    • MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

      I was going to add at the time that I was reading Narnia to my son, some idiot in my church was going on and on about how Narnia wasn’t really a children’s book because children couldn’t understand the imagery in the book. A teacher friend of mine actually stopped reading Narnia to her class because of this nit-wit. A couple of days later, I heard my son (age 6) explaining to my dad that Aslan was supposed to be like Jesus.

    • Who is she really trying to shield from what’s scary and sad? Without passing judgment on her decisions about how to raise her kids, if I were Ms. Evans’s spiritual director, I would probably gently ask a few questions along those lines, if what she has written here is characteristic of the way she approaches life.

      • MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

        Also in my job I work with children who have seen and been victims of horrible abuse. These kids go to school with a lot of these kids who have been over protected, and you can’t protect them from that. You just can’t.

        My sister got kind of mad at me once because I told my niece that she is an incredibly lucky little girl to have so many people who love her because many children don’t have anyone who loves them. I told her this when she was being kid of a brat about something and claiming we didn’t love her for not letting her have her way. But, it shocked her when I told her that, and I think it’s okay for kids to know that.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      I think I was 5 or 6 when The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was first read to me. My mother had a boxed set of the seven and I would stare at the various covers for hours (they were still a bit above me voluntarily tackling them on my own… it was a few more years before I enjoyed reading). Some of the covers were pretty frightening, but that’s one of the reasons why I was drawn to them.

  13. She never did justify why she banned the books. She never explicitly mentioned what problem the books would cause, never specified a causal relationship between anything the books said and what her child did or felt or said, never explained what it was that she was trying to cure or prevent. I think we read into her blog that she is trying to protect her child. If that is the case, then the next question is from what? Feelings, it seems, rather than actual events. I think if we asked her these questions, she may have to come to terms with what the real role of a parent is. Is a parent supposed to protect children from the outside world or prepare them for the outside world? Or both?

    Beyond that, Marc has the best reply quoting Lewis. The whole point of literature is to teach vicariously. I learn of the dark side of life not from experiencing it, but from reading about it. Would this mother rather her child learn of the heartbreak of infidelity by painful experience or by reading Anna Karenina? Do we want the burden of guilt to be experienced by reading Crime and Punishment or experienced by becoming a punished criminal? Obviously, we cannot say that such books prevent indiscretions, but we can point to them as lessons with a moral at the end.

    “Experience is the best teacher and fools learn by no other.” I would much rather learn from the painful experiences of others than through my own. This is what literature affords us.

  14. The bigger question “Is the Bible too scary for kids?”

    I ran into something similar to this when my wife and I were doing children’s church. We had children age 3-11 and as expected, near Easter, we would talk about crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Other times of year we would teach Old Testament narratives as well. We tried to do it in a way appropriate for all the ages.

    One mother with a very sensitive child would ask us what we were going to teach on, and would often keep her daughter out of children’s church for fear that she would be upset.

    From my point of view, it seemed excessive, but I am not the mother who has to stay up with her at night if she can’t sleep. When it comes down to it, the parents need to be trusted to know what is best for that child depending on personality.

    • Well put. Right now, our family is going through the book of Daniel (one chapter a week), with my wife and I explaining the situations as we go. Our 9yo daughter is a sensitive soul — she sometimes gets teary-eyed when she misses a math problem — and yet she was able to deal with three of God’s people getting thrown into a giant oven because her parents were walking through it with her.

      She’s also read through the entire Chronicles of Narnia, several times, as well as Michael Chabon’s Summerland, which is if anything a little freakier. No nightmares. I even used Ender’s Game as bedtime reading for her when she was 7 (editing out the questionable language along the way) and she suffered no ill effects other than some whining when I told her she wasn’t quite old enough to read it on her own (unedited) yet.

      So I agree that reading material has to be tailored to the child’s temperament. But when I hear about someone banning Babar (whose scariest aspect, IMNVHO, is its tacit assumption of French colonialism) or taking Betsy-Tacy away from their kid AFTER the kid has read it, it’s not the mental health of the child I’m left wondering about. It’s one thing if the kid is having a bad reaction to a story line; it’s quite another when a parent has a bad reaction and is unwilling to see their child’s point of view and talk with them about it.

      I hope Ms. Evans is becoming willing to do less banning and more parentling. It’ll be better for her and her daughter, I think.

      • Follow-up thought: I’m pretty close to letter her read Ender’s Game on her own — seeing as the language in it isn’t any worse than that of her peers at the Christian school she attended last year …

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        She’s also read through the entire Chronicles of Narnia, several times, as well as Michael Chabon’s Summerland, which is if anything a little freakier.

        Knowing the origin of the term “Summerland”, I expect it would be.

  15. Prodigal Daughter says:

    I think the best approach for this “issue” is to know your child, engage your child and help your child to think critically (but only if you first can think critically). We all agree shielding children from the real, hard issues of life only softens them and makes them vulnerable to the future. That is not teaching our children. That is sending them out into life and the world ill-equipped to deal with it all.

    There are times and places for everything. To everything there is a season. Let them learn about life from literature, from experience. Let the child ask questions about life. Answer their questions in ways that they will understand and are appropriate to their maturity level. (i.e. telling a young child who asks how babies are born that sometimes doctors do surgery to take babies out of a mommy’s belly, but other times babies slide down a special slide that all mommies have inside them). If we don’t answer our children’s questions and we don’t take the opportunities to teach them ourselves, SOMEONE ELSE WILL! We’ll miss the opportunity to share our own values and perspectives, to pass them down and to build what God has put us on this earth to do: a relationship with our kids and prepare them for life without us.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      If we don’t answer our children’s questions and we don’t take the opportunities to teach them ourselves, SOMEONE ELSE WILL!

      I can second that. My parents never taught me anything about sex except (Mom) “It was so filthy that even thinking about it is a Sin!” and (Dad) “I’ll tell you when you’re old enough to understand.” (I was in my Forties when he died without telling me.)

      I learned about sex from medical articles, high-school locker-room bragging, and general exposure to (in the words of Avenue Q) “Porn! Porn! Porn!” All this while most of my bingo-balls were still floating around in the draw-tank due to the emotional retardation that often goes hand-in-hand with being a kid genius. The combination and result wasn’t and isn’t pretty.

      • That is an incredible metaphor, boy genius!! BTW, I was the same emotional retard.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          As far as I can tell, it’s like some sort of “Conservation of Neurological Energy” — what gives you that 160+ IQ has to come from somewhere. (I couldn’t swallow a pill or run like a boy instead of a girl until I was in my twenties.) While your mental age (that IQ) rushes ahead of your chronological age, the rest of your personality lags behind. I think at 54 my personality is where normal people’s are around 25 or so.

          It’s made worse by two factors:
          1) Adults look at you and all they see is that IQ. You’re a GENIUS, a giant Brain in a jar. Wesley Crusher or Jimmy Neutron. They forget there’s a kid attached to that brain. And that just makes the emotional retardation worse.
          2) If Kid Genius is also a Natural-Talent Speedreader (as I was), kid genius ends up by age 8 filling his mind with the amount of raw information normal people accumulate over their entire lifetime, with more constantly pouring in. And NO idea how to fit all this raw info together; as Steven King put it, “When you’re eight years old, most of your bingo-balls are still floating around in the draw tank.”

    • Salsapinkkat says:

      I sooo wish the bit about the special slide were anywhere near the truth! 😉

  16. theres nothing in those books that isnt in the bible.

  17. I’m not a parent, so I guess anything I say about this is simply from a limited perspective. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, though, I was around a lot of people who were very strict with the kids as far as media and toys. My parents tended to be pretty lenient. I don’t really remember being told I couldn’t read certain things, and actually I think my parents got me the Narnia box set when I was pretty young – probably 8 years old. I know some of my friends and relatives had all kinds of restrictions, though. The thing is, though, kids will always find a way to get around those restrictions in some way or another. I think parents simply overestimate the amount to which they actually can protect their kids from stuff.

  18. I do not really understand her reservations, because I do not share her presuppositions about what is age-appropriate. I resist the idea that there are a whole range of topics that children simply can’t handle and from which they ought to be shielded. There are certain things they can’t understand yet — and certainly certainly some images or descriptions that are too jarring. Those, I would screen, when possible (and it isn’t always). But why shield someone from the concept of death, or of battles, or of shooting things for food? These are disturbing concepts, but they are made even scarier when they are made taboo. It would be much, much better to see those themes come up in Narnia and talk about it than to avoid the topic entirely.

    I might be an odd ball, but I remember encountering difficult topics as a kid and regarding them far more matter-of-factly than the adults around me did. I didn’t know certain things were shocking or taboo, I simply thought, “Oh, this is part of the world too.” I either left it at that, or I thought about it and tried to work out the meaning. In the latter case, it was better when adults or stories or movies helped me to interpret them and offered me ideas.

    So … I guess I just don’t believe that it is terrorizing to realize things like, “People die in war” or “Sometimes people get divorced” or “Sometimes people get so sick that they die.” Its only honest to expose children to these concepts and to meet their questions, than to try to insulate them from it all.
    Its hard, but how much worse, when the first time you find out that people die (often, suddenly, and for seemingly meaningless reasons) when you learn that your friends father killed himself or your cousin is killed in the military? It’s worse to encounter a topic everyone has studiously avoided; it seems scarier and unnnatural and dramatizing, whereas something acknowledged and discussed is a terrible but ordinary side of life.

    I think the same thing holds true for the news. People to starve to death. All the time. Why not introduce that early, and give the child something positive to do in response — like prepare care pages or raise money for humanitarian efforts?

    • Edits: “Care pages” should be “care packages.” “Dramatize” should be “traumatize.”

    • Well put, Danielle. I agree 100%.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As somebody who actually had to forcibly grow up from sheltered 6 to worldly-wise 20 literally overnight (and the scars are still there), I can second Danielle.

  19. A wise mom once told me not to ban books, but let children pick books out for themselves and teach them to be discerning, or just stop reading if a book makes them feel uncomfortable. My daughter started reading the Little House in the Big woods (1st book in little house on prarie series), and she voluntarily skipped the portions on killing and smoking the deer. She hasn’t come back to that book, and I think she lost interest., in spite of the fact that I encouraged her to read it, so it is not out of any fear of my disapproval. Instead, she chooses to read much lighter fiction such as Cynthia Rylant Cobble street cousins about 3 little girls. I suspect she will not like the narnia series until she gets much older. I’m sure each child will be different, and my 2 yr old boy may be less sensitive. I see most of the commentators here are critical of Evans, but I can honestly understand where she is coming from. My daughter has nightmares and obsessed about bad thoughts when she is exposed to too much violence or the bad behavior of other kids at school (she just started school this year) – we are actually taking her to a psychologist for all this, but I suspect she is just emotionally immature compared to the other kids.

    • I like the idea of giving the child themselves a roll in deciding what they wanted to hear and read. If they don’t want to read something, then they have a reason that should be respected. If they do want to read it, then they might have questions or be curious — in which case it is good for them to read the material and to know that mom and dad are ready and willing to chat about them. But the moment the book or topic is forbidden, the child’s covert attempt to approach the material will likely take place in secret.

  20. I think Ms. Evans was wise to bring Babar back out of the box at the end of her article. And I agree with many of the commenters above about this need to “protect” children. Like David L, I grew up in a farming community and saw bloodier things every day than ever appeared in the Narnia stories. And I agree with those who point out that the Bible itself is far bloodier and more violent than any children’s literature.

    The attitude reminds me of Frances McDormand’s mother character in the movie Almost Famous, who tried to protect her children from contamination by banning all popular music from the home, on the assumption that all rock songs were about sex and drugs; she even banned Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends (my favorite of their albums, btw). The result? Her son became a music critic for Rolling Stone magazine (in real like the movie’s director, Cameron Crowe, who wrote for Rolling Stone starting in his high school years and is married to Heart singer/guitarist Nancy Wilson). So much for “protection”. huh? That approach never, never works, and I applaud Ms. Evans for finally catching on to that.

  21. I think it is admirable that a parent ask such questions. How many allow kids to read or watch almost anything these days? Parents should be concerned about what their kids are exposed to and, at times, action must be taken.

    In my mind, the main issue here is age appropriateness. Eventually, kids are going to ask the questions this little girl did no matter how we try to protect them. The current godless culture is too full of stuff never dreamed of in Mayberry. Yes, Mayberry was place of fiction,but there were many places in America like that not that long ago.

    Once our kids start school, public or private, the exposure will begin. Have I heard stories about what goes on behind teachers backs from teens…

    Parents have a great deal of control, particularly in the early years, and should invest the time to make judgments on what they think is acceptable.

    I was fortunate to have a wife that had been a school teacher. She had read every one of the books my kids were exposed to. My wife chose to be a stay-at-home mom until our kids entered school. It is an “investment” that neither one of us will ever regret.

    And the Chronicles of Narnia… I just asked my 18 year old daughter when she first read it. “Fifth grade” was her answer. From what I know about the book, I think that’s about the age kids can really appreciate the story and not be overwhelmed by some of the content. I didn’t read the “Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” until I was an adult. I don’t think my parents knew that the book existed.

    How does a parent know what is age appropriate? Anyone reading this has access to the internet and many sources for such information. If a parent cares enough, they will take the time to research what their children are exposed to.

    • I disagree with one thing that you said–the only reason we may feel that there were places like Mayberry is that people hid issues like racism, abuse, addiction, etc. better than we do now. If we really want to get our eyes open, just read church history! Now when is it appropriate to read that or anything else? I have no easy answer, but you are certainly right that parents need to care and research.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Mayberry is a mythic place. MYTHIC. (This is one of my more common rant subjects…)

        This dovetails into the Christian (TM) view of the 1950s as some sort of Godly Golden Age. Christian Culture War Activism is centered around “Taking Back America” and returning it to this Godly Golden Age in “Christian Nation (TM)” perpetuity, just as Islamic Culture War Activism (think al-Qaeda and the Taliban) is centered around returning Islam to a perpetual Year One of the Hegira. This even extends to Left Behind: Volume whatever, where we find the New Heavens and New Earth are an eternal American Midwest/Great Plains, dotted with Eternal 1950s Mayberries and Pleasantvilles.

        And to top it off, this Godly Golden Age of the 1950s isn’t even the REAL 1950s. It’s a MYTHOLOGICAL 1950s according to Ozzie, Harriet, and Donna Reed.

        (At 54, I’m just old enough to remember the tail end of the Nifty Fifties — the First 1960s — and it was NOT a Godly Golden Age. Had a lot more sense of style and “can-do” optimism and confidence than today’s Grinning Nihilism, but it was NOTHING like the Mayberries you find in Evangelical mythology.)

        • Hogwash. The 50’s were an era of very low crime, intact families, rapidly falling black poverty, and awesome movies that somehow managed to make their point without overt sex and with very tame language. Perfect, no, but way less social pathology than today.

          • I am not sure if you are joking or building an argument here, but the 1950s were not pristine. I highly recommend the books “The Way We Weren’t” (Stephanie Coontz) and “The Permissive Society” (Alan Petigny).

            There were some positive trends, but really, if you read authors at the time, they were terrified of juvenile delinquency, trends in sexual behavior, and so forth. Certain negative trends abated; for example, the divorce rate stopped rising so quickly (but never did return to low levels — it just kind of hydroplaned for a while). The economy improved and with it the fortunes of many families, esp. those in the middle class. Also, many trends that really shook the world in the 1960s were present in the 1950s and rapidly gaining momentum.

            My doctoral dissertation centers on this era, so I feel fairly confident in stating that the era defies stereotype as an age of morality and family values; or, conversely, as a conformist hell-on-earth. These are all memories our culture has created that people at the time would not have recognized.

          • Eric Hinkle says:

            Thank you, Danielle, for your very intelligent words on the 50’s. It wasn’t Utopia, but no way was it Nazi Germany Pt. 2 either!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            My doctoral dissertation centers on this era, so I feel fairly confident in stating that the era defies stereotype as an age of morality and family values; or, conversely, as a conformist hell-on-earth.

            The Nifty Fifties were basically a decompression time from the one-two punch of The Great Depression and World War Two. After twenty years of grubbing-for-matches economic collapse and global war, the USA ended up the only First World nation not only untouched by the destruction, but even stronger due to their wartime expansion as “The Arsenal of Democracy”. The result was a time of prosperity unequalled before or since. which also retained the “can-do” optimism of beating both the Depression and the War.

            And the response of a lot of Americans was “It’s Miller Time”. After twenty years of deprivation and war, time to kick back and enjoy the prosperity — your 2.3 kids, your new car (which you couldn’t afford before), and cellophane-wrapped house in the suburbs (also which you couldn’t have afforded until now). The conformist aspect was there too; after what you’d been through and what you’d now achieved, nobody wanted to rock the boat.

            And the strain on the fault line kept building up until it all let loose in the earthquake of The Sixties. (Which era has its own mythic stereotypes, just like The Fifties.)

      • Pastor M,

        There’s no question that the things you’ve mentioned were hidden by many then.

        However, I think we’re just as good at hiding them now.

        There is one thing at which we gotten much better.

        We are really good at accusing the other guy of racial and abusive attitudes.

  22. I was rather astounded at the notion that Babar was too scary for her child to read, so I’m glad to see she’s re-thinking her “put it away in the box for later” policy.

    I would certainly agree that there definitely is a limit and that it is necessary to say “You’re not old enough to read that now, but in another couple of years it’ll be fine.” On the other hand, you can’t protect children from the facts of death, sickness, sorrow and pain by keeping everything away from them even to the extent of “No ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ or ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ because they involve violence and rule-breaking and other undesirable behaviours.”

    I saw my first dead body when I was – um, about six? My mother brought me to a funeral in the neighbourhood and beforehand everyone visited the ‘deadhouse’ (hospital mortuary) where the old lady was laid out. So, you know, early exposure to the fact that people die. Going to happen in life, and just maybe experiencing it through a book first is better preparation than having a sanitised educational experience and getting smacked in the teeth with it when your goldfish or your grandpa dies.

    • The pictures in Babar intoxicated me when I was still too young to read. I spent hours studying them and imagining myself there. I would be sorry for children to miss those lonely, imaginative times on rainy days, opening up the world of books, with no adults around to interpret or misinterpret.

  23. Have you seen that commercial, I have no idea what for, but everything is wrapped in bubble wrap? Even the people?

    I have never really gotten over reading Bridge to Terabithia when I was a girl. The sudden turn from a friendship/fantasy book to a tragedy affected me profoundly. My oldest daughter read the book last year at the age of 10. It didn’t affect her like it affected me. I’d shared how the book made me feel, and I was open to talking about it if she needed to. But she had dealt with the death of her own grandfather, whom my children were very close to, the year before. A fictional death didn’t have the same emotion for her.

    The treasure of books for children, especially those dealing with all sorts of different emotions, is that it is a safe, nonthreatening way to encounter difficult topics and situations, hopefully handled sensitively, so that a child can begin to learn to process them in a gentle way. Being too hasty to bubble wrap all those scary emotions may leave the child more vulnerable than she might be when terrible things happen in the world, or in their own world. Children do not perceive things the same way adults do. We need to be conscious that we are preparing our children for the world, not keeping the world from them until they’re “ready” to deal with it, and well-written books can be a wonderful part of that process.

    • I read Bridge to Terabithia to my daughter a couple of years ago (she was 7 at the time, 9 now), and it was more than either of us expected. But last year, when her little brother got sick and almost died, she was able to handle it surprisingly well. Could there be a connection?

  24. In The Fellowship of the Ring, one of Tolkien’s elvish characters tells Frodo, “The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you can not for ever fence it out.”

    As a parent and a high school English teacher, I’ve always observed that if you prepare children / students for what they will face in a book, they handle it well. It has been my experience that students and children handle controversial material much better than most parents. As a parent, I give my own children what I think they can handle at the time and guide them through it if necessary, but it would be impossible to prevent them from coming into any contact with anything “bad,” or “scary,” or “sad,” and I don’t try. In my opinion, my energy is much better spent equipping my children to deal with the issues they will face so that they are ready for it when it comes.

    I apply the same principle to my literature classes — prepare the students first for what they will encounter in a book, and they never fail to handle it well. Many parents that I have dealt with, though, apply Ms. Evans’ methods even to their teenagers. I had one a couple of years ago who would not allow any sort of video games or DVD’s into her house — none. Needless to say, I had to find another reading assignment for her son. I’ve never had a student who wigged out over a book once I’ve laid the groundwork (well, except one who passed out while we were reading A Tale of Two Cities!) — they handle it and go on. It’s always the parents who get upset.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Many parents that I have dealt with, though, apply Ms. Evans’ methods even to their teenagers.

      Not just teenagers. Lots of companies are reporing (allegedly) young adult newhires who had to call up Mommy and ask her how to answer every question in the job interview. Some who actually brought Mommy along to do the job interview for them.

      I’m 54 years old; I was raised by a helicopter mom who kept me at an emotional age of 6; she died when I was 20 and had to learn to grow up from 6 to 20 literally overnight. (No fun.) And my pastor/counselor writing partner says I act a LOT more grown-up than a lot of the Baby Boomers my age he has to counsel! I know I’m not wrapped all that tight, and I’m the Responsible Adult in comparison?

      In another context, I once commented that “there are a LOT of sexually-active six-year-olds in allegedly-adult bodies running around.”

      I’ve never had a student who wigged out over a book once I’ve laid the groundwork … they handle it and go on. It’s always the parents who get upset.

      In two words: KYLE’S MOM.

      • This explains a lot about your comment above about Mayberry.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And as far back as I can remember, one thing that’s REALLY creeped me out is adult actors in little-child roles (which you saw now and then in Thirties/Forties shorts).

    • CJ,

      The story in your last paragraph reminds me of an 8th grade female student I once taught. There was no television in her home.

      One election night, I had the kids come back to school to track election results. We had three T.V.s going. This was long before Fox. CBS, ABC, and NBC were doing what they do on election night and the kids were writing in projected winners on a large map they had made.

      At one point, a couple of the kids asked if they could check the “Full House” of the day. After giving them permission, they watched the show for a few minutes and then got back to the “election coverage” that was taking place on the other two T.V.s.

      Looking back to the T.V. with the popular show, the 8th grader without the T.V. in the home had pulled a chair up to it and her face was 12 inches away from the screen. The volume of the other two T.V.s was up and she was trying to catch every word of a show that she had heard of but had never seen. She was the only one sitting there.

      Since I knew the show was harmless, I didn’t say anything and let her watch the last 10 minutes of the show.

      Her parents were overly strict in many ways.

      It did not surprise me that the young lady had a problem with lying.

      It’s much more difficult for parents today than it was just 25 years ago when this picture that I can still see in my mind was taken. There is so much more junk out there. I think parenting is a great challenge in today’s environment.

      We must ask God for wisdom when it comes to the decisions we make regarding our kids.

  25. Quick takeaway, more later – I pray that I don’t marry a woman like this. This is scary parenting to me. My childhood and life now would not be nearly as rich if I had had my reading habits censored so drastically. Thank God for my parents.

    • Josh in FW says:

      You should reread the blog. The author recognized her mistake and changed. This is a very good trait to find in a wife. I’ve only been married 3.5 years and have a 20mo and 4 month old son. My wife was much more anxious and protective with the first child than the 2nd. I’ve watched our friends and observed that the vast majority of first time Moms are quite overprotective. The mothers that have chilled out the quickest are those who have husbands (reasonable mothers, aunts, and grandmothers are also very helpful) that gently and lovingly address the overprotection. Good luck in your wife search. The best advice I have is there is no perfect match and you aren’t nearly as good of a catch as you think you are. (Also, I recommend the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas)

      • To be fair, I think it does happen with the first child. By the time the second one comes along, the parents have learned that a little dirt doesn’t hurt and everything doesn’t have to be squirted with disinfectant 🙂

        • FYI, I’m a first child, and there is a 4-5 year gap between me and my brothers.

        • I was the youngest of 6 kids my next sib was 6 yrs. older. I was 6 yrs old when world war two broke out and listeened to the news, kid shows of the day and saw shootem-ups at the movies. My parents and older brother always tried to tell me the moral of what I read and saw. I also lived on a farm with cows,chickens, cats and dogs. I don’t remember being traumatized by any of it. Children are quite resilient if they have good parents.

      • I reread it and have been discussing it with others throughout the day. I’m glad there is that one take away line there at the end, but with how small it is, I wonder if it was not added later, and possibly by an editor, similar to the title. I hope it is real though.

        The grace and ability to change one’s mind is invaluable. That is something I’m looking for in a potential wife.

        Thanks for the encouragement! First though, we gotta get that pesky job and then maybe drop 50-60 pounds…lol.

  26. In my family we try to avoid placing our kids in a protective bubble from the world, and we don’t place them on a pedestal. That they are reading and not texting – that is a good thing. We try to teach garbage in/ garbage out or pay attention to what one reads. But books, as mentioned above allow children and young adults to experience those emotions without first hand pain, and give my wife and I an opportunity to talk about it with them. Whether that is history, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, classics, – if written well it engages the reader. I am not for censorship though I do sometimes look over the reading material assigned in school in case there is something we need to discuss further from a morality perspective.

    I would think that folks might be a bit more sensitive in the song lyrics coming over the radio/ipods/internet….

  27. Wade Phillips says:

    Interestingly enough, I’m reading through the Chronicles of Narnia with my 5-year old son now. There have been a couple of times when he was a little frightened; nothing beyond what a 5-year old can handle. There have also been numerous opportunities for profound discussion (on a 5-year old level) of some very deep subjects. It has been one of the great pleasures we have shared in our life together so far. We are both disappointing on those nights when he gets to bed too late for us to be able to read it. And it’s so great when I see his eyes light up every time Aslan makes an appearance! My favorite character in literature has become his also.

    I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure if he was ready when he first asked me if he could read it. But he has certainly proven me wrong. I’m sure this is not for every 5-year old, but it has been great for us.

  28. I commented on the original story in part thus: our calling as parents is not to perpetually shelter our children from the world but to teach them how to live in it without being of it.

    Having been a teacher and still being a parent (kids are teens now), I have some additional thoughts.

    1) It seems to me that a lot of what was happening in the article was driven by fear, though exactly what it is that was being feared was never made entirely clear. To my mind, that’s never a healthy thing.

    2) If the level of caution and sheltering in the article are really the way to go, what the heck are we supposed to do about missionary kids? Surely they’re doomed. (sarcasm on; I was one)

    3) I’ve been disappointed lately by the lack of depth and breadth in many of CT’s articles. This one could have been so much better if it had discussed the range of benefits and pitfalls of literature for children and exposed readers to a variety of approahces believers take when introducing their children (or not) to the great stories.

    4) Stories teach us who we are and what the world and God is really like. Of course the greatest story of all does this wonderfully, and the others echo it in their own way. Children not only deserve them; they need them.

    • “Our calling as parents is not to perpetually shelter our children from the world but to teach them how to live in it without being of it.”

      I think this is an excellent statement.

  29. I think the comments above do avery good job at pointing out why this is, to say it politely, misguided. But I want to ask where this comes from.I grew up in the Third World. My brother had to go an armed conflict. War and insurection, blood and gore.

    That was real life.

    This woman writes from an already existing bubble – one that exists in some places within the Frist World (bur not every where, mind you). Ironically, this bubble is possible because people had gone and “faced the dragons” for many centuries prior. Thus, she speaks, PhD or no PhD, from a profound unawareness of the human condition.

    Interestingly, this reminds strongly about a women I heard of who studied microbiology, and when her child was born, she became extremely germophobic. Her daughter was kept in a clean rom, you had to don a facemaks to interact with her, and all her toys and everything that came into contact with her was washed with that surgical stuff doctors use before an operation. Well, the upshot was predictable: The child is constantly sick, cannot go to a creche, etc etc. No exposure.

    The lady under consideration is doing the same thing to her child, on a mental/emotional/sociological level. Yes, she might bring Babar back. But there are many more things out there…

  30. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Interestingly, this reminds strongly about a women I heard of who studied microbiology, and when her child was born, she became extremely germophobic. Her daughter was kept in a clean room, you had to don a facemaks to interact with her, and all her toys and everything that came into contact with her was washed with that surgical stuff doctors use before an operation. Well, the upshot was predictable: The child is constantly sick, cannot go to a creche, etc etc. No exposure.

    And around 10 years from now, the kid will die of anaphylactic shock because someone opened a can of Planter’s Peanuts fifty meters upwind of her.

    The lady under consideration is doing the same thing to her child, on a mental/emotional/sociological level. Yes, she might bring Babar back. But there are many more things out there…

    I sure hope “Lady under consideration” plans on outliving her oh-so-precious mini-me. She has to helicopter over mini-me all through mini-me’s life, shielding and protecting mini-me from all those bad things mini-me might encounter, all the way through the nursing home and into the funeral home.

  31. If you seriously think that children should be shielded from Winnie the Pooh stories, you are in dire need of some therapy yourself and have obviously never read some of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales in the original versions.

  32. Within the last hours or so, the author commented on her own post, saying that she surprised herself in her book-banning drive. However, I still think the article enlightening, and as one who came from such a childhood, revealing. Ok, not completesy so bad – Anne of Green Gables and Little Women and Hardy boys and even Dickens was still around. But I only read Narnia and LOTR when I was about 23 / 24 years old. A pity. Me children (aged 10 – 13) have all read it (and some Tolkien, and HP, and and and…).

  33. I just read the Evan’s article, and I think many of the commenters here need to read it too before passing so much judgment, particularly the last line of the article where Evans wonder if now is a good time to introduce Babar after holding off. The article is not taking a stance on banning books, it is simply a mom trying to work out when to introduce books that deal with certain strong subjects. Remember that her daughter started reading at four, whereas most kids start reading at 6, and the emotional maturity of a 4 year old is not the same a six year old. I would think that most people here wouldn’t want their 6 year old reading Catcher in the Rye!

    As a mom of young children myself, I don’t think it is appropriate them to flood them with intense subjects all at once at a young age. Its a journey, and I think it is emotionally exhausting, for the child and the parent, to introduce too many things at once. So it is not about banning books, but not overwhelming the child (because that could be abusive)…particularly the child that is sensitive. My daughter is dealing with stress of being in a new school, so I don’t think it is fair to force her to read the animal killing scenes in Little house on the prairie if she doesn’t want to, particularly since she is still trying to acclimate to the idea of having a code blue at school. Maybe I’m oversheltering her, but I see she is overwhelmed, and what am I to do!

  34. I’m expecting my first child, a daughter, in February, and I fully plan to read her Tolkein and Lewis. I want my children to hear stories that convince them that yes, there are some bad things in the world, but there are people who are inherently good, who strive for what is right and pure. We live in a world where it’s difficult to tell the heroes from the villians…just watch wrestling, E News, or even ESPN, and you’ll see for yourself. I hope I’ll be able to provide my children with a knowledge of what is right and wrong, good and evil, and draw clear distinctions for them while doing so. I believe that great works like “The Hobbit” and the Narnia series will help me do so.

    By the way…My mom was almost expelled from her high school as a freshman, when she carried a copy of “Tobacco Road” to school. I am all for good literature, following after her example.

  35. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Upon seeing this Open Mic this morning, I gave a heads-up to someone I know over in the Lehigh Valley.

    You see last night on the phone, he was telling me about an archaeological find he’d come across in the Children’s section of his local library — pre-“Heather Has Two Mommies” children’s books, including a retelling of Homer’s “War Between the Mice and Frogs” illustrated by Fred Gwynne/Herman Munster, a retelling of a traditional Danish folktale by a major SF author, and a Victorian-era juvenile by H Rider Haggard that takes the (young) reader through Shaka Zulu’s rise and fall through the device of a character biography (of Quartermain’s sidekick) without pulling any punches about the bloody violence of that place and time. All considered appropriate for kids to teens to young adults at the time of publication. (I’ve read the original Treasure Island, Jungle Book, and Peter Pan myself, and they are nothing like today’s bowdlerized versions.) He’s a bit hesitant to publicize these finds lest the Kyle’s Moms remove them from the library (“Think of The Children, The Children, The Children…”); and when I saw this IMonk Open Mic, I emailed him the link with the request to “get over there and tell everybody what you told me last night”.

    • BTW, this also goes for the original Andersen fairy tales. There is a new translation from the original Danish out – and it is very far removed from the stuff you find nowadays. A plague upon the house of Disney…

      http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0618224564/julesvernevirtua

      • Oh, can I rant here about a made-for-tv version of the Snow Queen I saw a good few years back, that was pretty faithful to the original Andersen version but then completely lost the plot by making the Snow Queen good?

        She only froze Kay to protect him from the evil effects of the magician’s glass! I was spitting feathers at that one, I can tell you 🙂

    • Eric Hinkle says:

      Well, actually the Haggard book is mine (and no way am I giving it up), but the rest are library books. And you forgot to mention a massive collection of the “Uncle Remus” stories by Joel Chnadler Harris, all done in a very heavy Gullah dialect. And there’s no shortage of violence in them, all inflicted on Brer Fox, Brer Bear, Brer Wolf etc. after they mess with Ol’ Brer Rabbit.

      Reading it makes it easy to see why Bugs Bunny was once as nasty as he was.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And you forgot to mention a massive collection of the “Uncle Remus” stories by Joel Chnadler Harris, all done in a very heavy Gullah dialect.

        You were already worried that the library might remove it as RACIST RACIST RACIST (TM) if they knew they had it, so I didn’t want to draw attention to it.

    • Oh, man. R.M. Ballantyne’s “The Coral Island” was followed up with a sequel called “The Gorilla Hunters”, in which our young heroes, having been rescued from the coral island they were shipwrecked on are now embarking on a career in Africa as – you’ve guessed it – gorilla hunters.

      I would pay money to see the looks on the faces if that particular volume was slipped onto the shelves 🙂

  36. Whenever we try to raise a child in an overly-sterile environment we create a person who lacks the antibodies to deal with the realities of our fallen world. And in my experience that applies both to germs & viruses, and to our choices in life.

    I specifically recall an attractive young woman from my Bible college days who had been totally sheltered and overprotected growing up. After one year of Bible college she dropped off the grid, running with the boys. When I saw her again about 8 months later (she dropped by to invite us to her wedding) she looked like she had been through hell, and had aged at least 10 years. Her parents certainly didn’t do her any favors by not preparing her for the real world.

    Unfortunately I think that is the mindset Elrena Evans initially brought to the table (although not nearly as extreme, from the looks of it). But in keeping anything regarding death from her daughter she has bought into our modern sanitized lifestyle, where issues like death are hidden behind hospital walls, and young children should be protected from such realities as long as possible. She seems, though, to be coming around to a more reasonable viewpoint, and shouldn’t have to face the problem of having raised a child with no antibodies.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Something I noticed from actually reading Victorian children’s classics (as in Treasure Island, Peter Pan, and The Jungle Book):

      Though Victorians were always very indirect and obscure when it came to sex, they were VERY direct when it came to violence and death — even in their children’s literature. Maybe the fact that even an upper-class Victorian child would probably bury a couple siblings before they turned 18 had something to do with it.

  37. My kids are all in high school now, but some of their fondest memories are me sitting by their bed, and reading The Hobbit or Ivanhoe or some other classic to them as preschoolers. My wife and I exposed them very early to good literature and long stories, even if it did have violence. On the other hand, we rather severely limited what videos or tv they say.

    Looking back, that is one of the few areas of parenting where I feel I got it right.

  38. What will Ms. Evans do if someone in her family dies? Will she tell her children that the person that died went on vacation or moved away? I have a 5-year old daughter who has been through the death of a family pet (dog) and a great-grandmother that she was very close to. We had to explain what happened, not make up some story that we could just put on a closet until she was older.

  39. I just saw evans wrote a followup to her article to clear up some misconceptions. Might want to check it out?

    • Evans’ follow-up comment is buried in the comments over at CT. For those want to save a couple of minutes, here is the text:

      I don’t often comment on my own posts, but I’d like to clear up a misunderstanding about this piece that seems to be prevalent in the comments.

      I wrote this piece, in part, as a way to understand what goes through the mind of a book banner. As someone who is passionate about reading, I shocked myself (as I said in the piece) when becoming a mother suddenly turned me, of all people, into someone who wanted to “ban” books. By the time I was ready to pull Little House on the Prairie and Narnia off of the shelves, though, I realized that something was wrong. Again as I said in the piece, “Clearly I needed to take a deep breath and regroup before my shelves were stripped bare.”

      I then go on to write that instead of banning books, “I’m letting my children take the lead, and answering questions as they arise.” And I conclude by writing about how my daughter can, indeed, handle things that make me want to knee-jerk to protect her.

      Perhaps that point was too subtlety made.

      Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting!
      ~Elrena Evans

      • It’s the entire “in between teeth brush strokes I hid that book” part that is upsetting. At least finish the book!

      • Thanks, Danielle. Ms. Evans kindly wrote me this afternoon and told me of the addendum. I tried to point people to it, but the computer I was working at wasn’t working.

  40. Somehow this all reminds me of a GK Chesterton quote.

    “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

  41. Two thoughts:

    One: Nothing in my experience as a teacher for many years (and now with three preschoolers at home) makes me think that protecting a “sensitive” child from all or nearly all exposure to anything that they are sensitive to or may find upsetting will help them to become less sensitive. This over-protection is especially prevalent for girls in the conservative Christian world and is foolish.

    Sure girls will get upset more easily than boys about some things, sure some of them are squeamish etc. However they need to be taught how to function in spite of their emotional reaction or they will be overwhelmed by life once they reach adulthood. Childbirth can be very “upsetting” and child-rearing for sure is (my three year old fell down an entire flight of stairs last night upsetting his two year old sister terribly (she cried more than he did) but also providing an opportunity to teach her how to care for someone even when something scary has happened). Our children must be raised to deal with all of life without falling apart.

    Two: Mennonite/Amish communities don’t hide death etc from their children but they don’t hide life either. The whole community rejoices and suffers together and children go to open casket funerals and are lifted up to see into the casket as the congregation pays their respects and comforts the family/each other. The result- death and suffering are accepted as coming from the hand of God, and as part of life.

    Attempting to shield children from the idea that life can be hard must be frustrating as this broken world makes that apparent in so many ways. In fact I wouldn’t want to try, I would think that my children would know that I was presenting them with a false view of the world (lying to them) and then why would they believe me when I spoke to them of God and his grace?

    There are things I don’t read to my children yet, but that is mostly because they don’t have enough understanding yet for us to be able to discuss what we’re reading. Still Narnia and Laura Ingalls Wilder are certainly a little extreme.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I would think that my children would know that I was presenting them with a false view of the world (lying to them) and then why would they believe me when I spoke to them of God and his grace?

      St Augustine said pretty much the same thing some 1600 years ago.

  42. Our now 11 year old son was also a very early reader and we have struggled to know how to handle his advanced reading ability without exposing him to things that he is too young to handle. However, we have come to realize that there is a huge difference between books and TV/movies. When you read a story your mind creates the pictures and those pictures reflect the maturity of the reader. A movie leaves little room for the imagination to create the pictures. So, for example, my son and I have been reading the Lord of the Ring trilogy out loud to each other over the past couple of years (we are partway through book 3) and his mind creates the battle scenes to be as violent as he can handle. It will probably be a couple of years before we watch the movies with him though, because the violence in the movies is more than we believe is appropriate for him now.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Exactly.

      We let our kids read whatever they want. As they got older, I made sure to read the books that were “popular” and going around so that I knew the content and could talk with them about what they were reading, if they wanted – and sometimes I wanted. But reading was never censored.

      But they did not get to watch whatever they wanted to on TV, or see any old movie they wanted to. Before they were old enough for school, the TV was turned off at 11 a.m., after “Reading Rainbow” was over, and they had to play and otherwise entertain themselves; if the weather was bad, they could watch a video in the afternoon. Later on when they were in grade school, they were not allowed to watch some of the shows that were popular, as I didn’t think they were appropriate, but I always told them why; it wasn’t arbitrary. Once they got to Jr High, they could watch TV after they finished their homework.

      The other thing about our children’s TV watching is that in our house we have only one TV, and it’s in the living room where everyone can see what’s being watched (true “public” TV!). Knowing that the parents could see (and sometimes sat down to watch, too) kept things from getting out of hand. Good opportunities to bring to their attention some things re violence, the cultural view of women, advertising brainwashing techniques, etc.

      My oldest, now 24, recently told me, “Mom, I understand now why you wouldn’t let us watch (name of show). It wasn’t appropriate for us.” 🙂

      Dana

  43. Is Narnia too Scary for Kids? NO.

  44. CHAPLAIN MIKE!

    Going to write your own comments up later or just let us keep discussing it? Obviously this seems to be a big topic, would love to hear your thoughts.

    • We were not very restrictive parents, especially when it comes to reading material. Some of my biggest battles when I was a pastor were with those who were more separatistic about matters like this. I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist atmosphere (though my family and community were of the conservative Midwestern variety), and I have always felt like somewhat of an “outsider” when someone claims that a separatist (God against culture) approach is the preferred or only way to follow Jesus. Having said that, I don’t think that Ms. Evans’ post is necessarily promoting that point of view. As I said in an earlier comment, I’m usually more interested in why someone chooses to parent in the way they do, and as a pastor I would want them to base their decisions on healthy reasons. I also agree with those who have posted saying that parenting changes as more children are added to the family and decisions become more complex (and tiring!).

      This has been a good, thoughtful discussion. Thanks to everyone.

      • Thanks! Didn’t mean to come across as shouting or anything…just hard to get specific people’s attention in threads at times.

  45. Just a brief comment about banning the Bible for content…
    I’ve heard somewhere before that young Jewish boys were not allowed to receive exposure to the Song of Solomon until they had passed a certain age. Was that censorship? I don’t think so. They didn’t get rid of the book, but they timed it’s presentation in a wise and proper manner. I see many parents who shelter their children not with the intention of teaching them hard things at appropriate times or to make wise decisions about adult choices. It seems they do this out of fear because they would rather make their children’s decisions for them, and these are the ones that go off to college and rebel. It also seems that they are afraid to deal with these issues (sexuality, violence, etc…) and would rather just put them off and hope someone else (the church, possibly?) gives their children proper exposure with Christian perspective. I don’t have children, so I don’t have room to speak. But are my observations wrong? Can no one with experience verify what seems obvious to me?
    You don’t have to have kids to know that parenting is hazardous work. It takes boldness, and I would wonder, for any parents engaging in this sort of censorship, is there a plan? Will the issues you’re protecting your children from be exposed to them beyond your control? Will they, despite your best efforts, hear it from someone else first? Will these influences give them a godly perspective?
    Like I said, I have no kids yet but I do plan on it. As of now, my plan is to deal with topics when they come up. Once they can understand enough to ask the question, you’d think they can understand enough to investigate on their own. It’s not like adults are exactly pristine in their handlings of sexuality and violence. I just don’t want the crazies getting to my children first, and I’ve seen too many adultes (I’m in youth ministry) think they have their child’s exposure level under control while I know for a fact they are dead wrong.

    • Buford Hollis says:

      Did you ever see that issue of “National Lampoon” where they made fun of “Boy’s Life,” the Boy Scouts magazine? For those who don’t know, “Boy’s Life” used to have a “Bible Stories” feature done in comic / cartoon format, kind of like Prince Valiant. “National Lampoon” applied the same style to the Song of Solomon–there was this naked woman stretched out, with each part of her body labelled with a Bible verse. (“Thy breasts are like fawns, twins of a gazelle…”) Great stuff.

  46. Years ago, there was this show called “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein” starring Billy Van and Vincent Price. They had this sketch called “The Librarian” which poked fun at the idea that stories are horrifying to little children. The Librarian read nursery rhymes and other stories, hoping to horrify his audience. But they end up laughing at him instead. Here is one sketch:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw8T3xycCVw

    It is quite funny.

  47. Buford Hollis says:

    If the copyright thing can be worked out, somebody should do an “anti-Narnia” book from the perspective of the girl (who gets interested in boys and make-up, and so misses out on being killed with the other children in a train-wreck, and going to live with Aslan forever). In other words, portray Aslan and Narnia in a negative light. Side with the Wicked Witch.

  48. Buford Hollis says:

    By the way, one of the issues affecting the reception of the “Little House” books may be the libertarian politics of Rose Wilder Lane (Laura’s daughter).

  49. Hello – late to the party as usual, but I was checking my website stats and saw the backlink to here.

    I’m glad Elrena has reconsidered her policy. There is nothing quite like reading a (for the want of a better word) transgressive book. I have a just-teenage daughter with an adult reading age who reads all the ‘wrong’ books, pretty much like I did when I was growing up. She seems to be able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality pretty well – which isn’t to say that the stuff she reads isn’t helping to form her, in the same way they helped form me. However, I see reading stories which are viewed through other, possibly alien, eyes as a positive boon. I’ve eulogised To Kill a Mockingbird elsewhere, but there are hundreds of other books that I’ve read that were simply life-changing.

    The problem is never knowing which ones they might be. So you have to read, read, read – through all sorts of good, bad, indifferent stories – and you can’t afford to be picky.