Monday, June 7, 2010

A Cultural Paradigm Shift and How It Effects Children's Literature

Don't let the fancy title stop you from reading this article, especially if you have children who like to read.

We have a large collection of children's books in our home, about 4,000. I try and collect books written before 1960. Why? Let me tell you...

People who were born prior to 1945 ( the WWII generation and before) were taught, by their parents and society, that the most important thing about a person was what he did. To do right in the face of danger showed that you were a brave and good person, the kind of person we looked up to and respected. These ideals were written about and demonstrated in children's literature. We were taught that hard work paid off and that a good man honored and cared for the women in his life. Horatio Alger books all talk about the unfortunate young man who, through hard work and diligence, is able to become successful. My favorite author growing up was Stephen W. Meader. All his books show young men doing right for their country and family, even when enemies tried to dissuade them. Consider Jules Verne and his book, 'Micheal Strogoff' as another example of the person that does right even when it is very hard. There are many others. In fact, most books held to these values.

The 1950's happened, and rock n' roll, peaceniks, drugs and the whole counter cultural movement suddenly hit the scene and took over. It totally changed how society thought and what it valued. There are some clear examples from the political front. Ronald Reagan had a biographer who was given total access to him. He had the run of the White House and could talk to him almost any time and observe. When his book was published and the author was being interviewed, he was asked how well he had gotten to know Ronald Reagan. To the surprise of all present, he told them he didn't feel like he got to know him very well. When quizzed as to why he believed that, he replied, "He never told me how he felt about things." George Bush published his 'Memoir and Letters' after he left the White House. The press came to him and asked him why he hadn't expressed his feelings on these different things before. They said they might have been more sympathetic if they had known. George Bush looked at them and told them that 'it didn't matter what I felt, it was what I did that was important.' He was our last president of that World War II generation. I miss those manly MEN. Our next president was the infamous Bill Clinton. We all remember his frequent statements expressing his feelings. He would say, "It's not important what I do, but how I feel about it that matters." That is the huge cultural paradigm shift that effects almost every area of our life, even children's books.

Today, the authors of children's books focus on the character's feelings rather than their doing the right thing. Bad behavior is excused if the person intends it for some good purpose. Most characters are egocentric and care too much for their physical appearance, rather than on the needs of those around them. These are the values that are communicated to children as they read these books. 'I am the most important thing in the universe and there are no absolutes.' This is possible, because we no longer have any knowledge of biblical values, history, and the hero tales. Today's authors have not read the classics and this is reflected in their writings. The books are shallow and poorly written. The vocabulary is simplistic and the plot is obvious. At best they are cotton candy for the mind; Slightly entertaining, but poisonous to the health in any large quantity. I hate to say this, but even most Christian authors today are just as contaminated in their mindset as their secular counterparts, others are just pure pap. Parents, read any 'Christian' book before you put it in the hand of your children! I am afraid that many of the ones I have read have ended up in the trash, before the children get their hands on them. (Yep, I am a book 'banner'; you should be too!)

[One christian author that writes well and tells a great story is Douglas Bond. (No relation to James :-) ). He has written the Mr. Pipes stories about the Hymns and the Crown and Covenant Series. We have really enjoyed reading them aloud as a family, as well as individually.]

On a related but totally different topic.... Beware, these ideas have infiltrated the church and you will hear them from christian people. I even had one guy tell me, that he was trying to help his girlfriend escape a bad family situation when he got her pregnant! Somehow, the fact that he was trying to help her, made it OK. It is ALWAYS right to do right and wrong to do wrong, no matter what you are trying to accomplish. They are the 10 commandments, not the 10 suggestions!

What we and our children read DOES impact our thoughts, so make sure and put in truth!

I will now crawl off one of my favorite hobby horses and close this post.


  1. Want to come visit and go through the boys book shelves and then take a visit to the local thrift stores to look at their books with me?!?! :)

    I toss most of the books our boys are given - there are a lot of truly stupid children books!

  2. We'll have to get together when you come to OH this fall. I'd love to show you our library and maybe do a little shopping.

  3. I just found this post and think you have a great family. I would be interested in what some of your favourite children's book titles are.