When Should We Stop Censoring Our Children’s Books?

I’ve just returned from the library with books for my two granddaughters. I found an armload for two-year old Amelia – cardboard books with sweet images of babies and animals and toys.

The challenge was finding books for six-year old Juliet. I spent an hour looking through every volume on the Books with CDs shelf and had to put most of them back.


Because they would never pass my daughter’s rules for books:

  • No disparaging words like stupid, dummy, or fat
  • No sad, scary, mean-spirited, teasing themes or stories with death – even if things get resolved in the end

There was a sweet book about a little boy whose grandpa teaches him how to walk, one step at a time, when he is a baby. When the boy is six, his grandpa has a stroke and has to go to the hospital. When he comes home, the boy is scared of his grandpa at first because his speech is so different. But gradually the boy shows his grandpa how to walk and talk again. I loved this book but I knew my daughter wouldn’t. So, back on the shelf it went!

Another book was beautifully illustrated and told the story of many generations in a family who emigrated from Russia. The grandma made a quilt from some worn clothes and it was passed down from one generation to the next. The family used it for a tablecloth, a chuppah and to wrap newborn babies. But the grandma died, so I knew that one wouldn’t work either.

A cute girl with funny hair, buck teeth and a squeaky voice listened to her grandma and stood up to the bullies who made fun of her. I put that one right back on the shelf, too.

I finally chose some books that I knew would pass her test, but I would have enjoyed sharing the three above. I dutifully obey the rules and carefully screen all the books I select. I just wonder how long we can isolate my granddaughters from the “real” world.



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