Talk About It. Don’t Skip It.

“I’m not a big fan of skipping passages while reading because you think your kids can’t handle it. If they can’t, don’t read the book.”

I posted this on Twitter this morning. I’d been reading a blog post about someone skipping parts of the Little House books because there were things she didn’t want to have to explain to her kids yet (this issue was violence related). I respect her right to do that – I know of others who have – but it’s not a choice I would make.

Likewise, I’ve read of people skipping/editing it because, let’s be honest here, there are some pretty racist parts. People always think of the parts where the Native Americans are featured, but there are other parts that bother me, too. Most of these are parts that bother me as an adult – I’m quite certain that, as a child, I didn’t understand what they were saying.

Recently, Kai and I listened to the audiobook version of “Little House in the Big Woods”. At one point, Pa is playing his fiddle and he sings a song about a “darkie”. I think I audibly gasped.

I know people who would have edited this part or wanted it edited out. I don’t. I don’t like that it’s there but these books were based on her life and that was “accurate” for the timeframe. They are part of the book and, in my opinion, shouldn’t be removed.

But they should definitely be talked about. These things aren’t exactly easy to talk about, but they SHOULD be talked about. I think it’s important for kids to know that this used to be common and why it’s wrong. I also think it’s worthwhile to talk to kids about the idea that this was not considered “wrong” or “mean” back then (at least not by white society) – but that it still WAS wrong. (And if this is really too uncomfortable to talk about, you could always start with Harry Potter – the terms “pureblood” and “mudblood” are excellent fictitious examples of racism. We’ve watched some of the Harry Potter movies with Kai and he’s listened to some of the audiobooks. When we hit the term “mudblood”, we stopped and had a talk about why that wasn’t nice and that people shouldn’t be discriminated upon based on their race or what family they were born into.)

If you can’t do this – if you can’t talk with your kid about the difficult subject matter in the book you’re reading – I honestly believe you shouldn’t be reading them that book. (With that said, I respect the right of others to choose differently for themselves – and, for the record, the post came from one of the blogs I love and read regularly and I think no less of the person who wrote it.)

I’m curious – do you edit out parts from books you read to your kids? If so, for what reason?

 

3 thoughts on “Talk About It. Don’t Skip It.

  1. mamacrow

    i tend not to edit, rather pause & issue the counter argument! Especially in books that are very ‘all babies in cots by themselves & bottlefed’ kinda thing, or feature people having to do something just because of their gender or colour or race.

    Anything that’s very ‘this way is the only way’ or ‘this view is the only view’, I tend to pause and point out that actually, there are other views and not everyone believes in God/is a christian/likes pink/whatever

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  2. Jeska (@ArgyleFetish)

    Huh. I don’t remember any serious violence in the Little House books. I guess that shows what made an impression on my little kid brain, when I read them way back when.

    Do you recall a few years back when someone decided to edit Huck Finn and remove every occurrence of the N word? (Like you said… maybe it wasn’t a nice word, but it wasn’t considered wrong, and was a correct reflection of culture at the time it was written.)

    I think differences make very good teaching opportunities.

    I totally agree with what you are saying. Besides appreciating the original artist’s work, if we edited every book because it was no longer politically correct, we would have no record of a past that was any different from where we are now, and nothing to learn from so we don’t make the same mistake in the future.

    So, there’s really only two instances where I edit:
    It’s because they picked a picture book with multiple paragraphs on each page, and their attention span is at the one-sentence-per-page level. 😀

    Or if there’s swearing. Which I would even edit if I were reading it to my husband.

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