What Kind of Books Do Our Kids Need?
A couple of weeks back, I posted on how there is an effort in the movie biz to hero-fy the villains in stories. (The Dark Side is Trending)
While gaining a greater understanding of the villains’ side of stories seems to be trending there is a danger, we must be aware of in children’s entertainment. What do I mean?
So here we go on a short history lesson.
Stories have long been a part of human history. For many hundreds of years, stories were passed orally from one generation to another. In most of these stories, the goal was simple: Teach, Train, and Protect.
Teach about historical events.
Train in what is good and bad.
Protect each other from harm.
But most of these stories were general and not specifically directed at children until the Judeo-Christian movement came across Europe. Because of the value the Torah/Bible puts on children.
Irish folk tales can be traced back as early as 400 BCE, while the earliest folk tales are arguably the Pachatantra, from India, written around 200 AD. The earliest version of Aesop's Fables appeared on papyrus scrolls around 400 AD.
But it wasn’t until the 1600s that books began to be made with children in mind. Much of the books were meant to teach children since the education of children was still in its infancy.
In the 1800s, as paper and printing became more economical, the children's book industry boomed. In 1744, John Newbery’s book, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, is considered the first children’s book for recreational reading instead of teaching.
Books for children were written with the express purpose of instructing and educating them on some aspect of moral or social life.
Johann David Wyss published his The Swiss Family Robinson in 1812. The novel, one of the first of its kind, was written to teach children the importance of self-sufficiency while also entertaining them with a rousing tale of adventure.
In the 1920s is when illustrated Children’s books came on the scene, with some of the first being: Wanda Gag’s Millions of Cats (1928), The Little Engine That Could (1930), Madeline (1933), Curious George (1941)
A Change in the Tide
In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a big shift away from Judeo-Christian values. America was redefining families and love as people moved away from Christian ideals. I could go on a soap box of how and why, but I encourage you to do your research. It is fascinating.
Our cultural movement away from Judeo-Christian values has done the same in our entertainment from books to screens. Creating an ever-expanding gray area in morals and what is considered good and bad and right and wrong.
And our kids are feeling the effects.
What kind of books do our kids need?
Our kids need books with clear boundaries between good and evil. They need to be able to recognize evil and find the good around them.
Children’s books are meant to empower our kids when they feel powerless. To provide boundaries and guidelines to show them what it means to be a good person.
Why do you think Harry Potter, Star Wars, Percy Jackson, and others like them are so successful?
It’s because there are clear lines between good and evil. They each have classic storytelling going back to the Greek, Chinese, and Biblical narratives.
If good and evil don’t have a clear divide then how can we expect our kids to be good? If we don’t show them what truth is and that they can’t ‘make their truth’ they will and everything will be justifiable.
The same is true for the shows we watch, even as adults, or attempt to watch as a family. The media is not focused on teaching and protecting morals they are focused on what’s going to fill their pocketbook.
No longer are the days that Saturday morning cartoons are safe. Because the moral center of our nation has shifted so drastically
What are Christian Parents’ next steps?
* Read what your kids are reading or watching
I know, I know, you’re saying one of two things.
I don’t have time for that -or -I want to read my books. I want to watch my own shows.
Yes, yes, there’s the rub.
But the hearts of our kids is so worth the time and effort. Books and watching shows together can bond you together in the same way that family vacations.
Whether it’s by doing a family book together or reading the book before your kids it is time well spent. Goodreads and Amazon blurbs don’t always give you all the details, the reviews only reflect the opinions of those who have read the book that may or may not share your worldview.
My eleven-year-old still brags about how he beat me through the Wings of Fire series before the final book came out. And I’m so glad I did read it along with him because there was a character introduced with same-sex attraction, which led us to search God’s word together.
* Compare with God’s Truth
Let me tell you upfront this is exhausting, but so worth it.
Showing our kids that the Bible is more than a rule book but a source of truth because it makes the truth real and tangible.
Do remember this!
You do not need a theology degree to lead your kids to God’s truth.
If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions invest in that question. Learning together is an amazing teachable moment for your kids.
They need to know that learning doesn’t only happen within school doors and that learning doesn’t end once you have a degree(s).
Gotquestions.com is a great place to start.
* Make decisions together
Once you’ve dissected the question and sought out God’s truth, include your children in the decision-making process. If they are invested in the decision to not do something they are more convicted and understanding in the family nos. Rather than the ‘mom you’re so strict’ fuss fest that can happen.
There is a fight going on for our kid’s hearts check out this 1957 recording by Paul Harvey called ‘If I Were the Devil’, and you will be surprised at how (I use this term loosely) prophetic it is.