Immy is currently loving the picture book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. First published in 1968, it is a story I remember from my own childhood, as I do other picture book classics which Immy enjoys; titles like Titch and Rosie’s Walk have quickly become firm favourites when we’ve borrowed them from the library.
And while I admit that ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ includes what many would consider outdated values and features old fashioned lifestyle ideals – our groceries are certainly not delivered by a boy on a bike and our milk is not delivered in glass bottles – it is a fun, imaginary story which I currently read at least three times a day!
That being said, we read just as many new, modern titles with more politically correct ideals (and mix them up with a good dose of regular non-fiction as well) as we do fairy tales and stories from previous generations. I honestly think Immy is exposed to a broad range of age appropriate literature, and who am I to dictate which stories she should (or will) enjoy the most?
When I came across this article over the weekend, a piece from the UK Guardian describing changes the publishers are making to ten of the wonderful Famous Five novels by classic children’s author, Enid Blyton, to remove “old-fashioned language and dated expressions,” I was completely confounded. These books were written in the 1940’s, I read them in the late 1970’s and I certainly don’t remember being greatly concerned that the author used expressions such as “mercy me!” or “fellow,” and seriously, what is with the perceived need to change “it’s all very peculiar” to “it’s all very strange”?
Are we giving our children enough credit, especially when it comes to their capacity for reading comprehension, their (developing) ability to recognise fantasy as separate to reality, and their capacity to learn about the past, as distinct from today, and indeed, from the future?
Should all children’s stories represent modern life? Is there no place for fantasy, or the enjoyment of ‘historical’ themes and the often rich, authentic language from a time gone by?
Obviously there is, when titles such as Lizzie Nonsense by Jan Ormerod, published in 2004, are shortlisted for a Children’s Book Council of Australia award. Another favourite picture book in our house, ‘Lizzie Nonsense’ shares the experience of pioneer Australian women and children left alone in the harsh Australian bush whilst male family members work away.
I think I agree most with the comments of Tony Summerfield, who runs the Enid Blyton Society, who states in the Guardian article that he is;
“Thoroughly against unnecessary changes just for the sake of it, from adults who underestimate the intelligence of children”. He added: “I am in approval of changing language which has perhaps become offensive or has different meanings, or any racist references.”
We really need to stop spoon feeding our children, teach them to be discerning in all areas of their life, and trust them to understand, or to ask questions when they do not. Let’s allow them to experience the richness of good children’s literature, whenever it was first published. As it is. After all, those stories which have survived the test of time, will surely never truly go out of fashion?
What classic picture book titles do you remember from your own childhood? Have you shared them with your own children?