“The more we invest in children, the more we destroy their future”

I’m reading a bit of Jack Zipes at the moment (Sticks and Stones  : The Troublesome success of children’s literature). It’s one of those books that I don’t know if I agree with it (in fact, there’s areas I’d love to wade into and pick apart) but my word, it’s a fiery, passionate and brilliant read so far. I’d urge you to have a look at this review by one of my estimable peers for more information on the book itself.

There’s a few particularly striking moments in the introduction that I wanted to share with you: “The more we invest in children, the more we destroy their future” and “We calculate what is best for our children by regarding them as investments & turning them into commodities”. Later he goes onto argue that we’re essentially making children’s literature what we want it to be, cultivating (inculcating?)  certain ideas onto children through our adult virtue of being the ‘elite.’ In a way, we are complicit in the “homogenization of children”. 

Now I want to share with you this incredibly thoughtful post about the future of sharing books with children. In it, another one of my equally estimable peers discusses the role of libraries, the future of them and how we can begin to addresss the fact that “the decision makers in this country [do not seem to]  value libraries enough to want to keep them.”

Why am I sharing these two things with you?

It’s because, I think, talking is one of the great skills we have as bloggers / readers / consumers of mass media. It is through the asking – and the provoking – of these questions (of asking the difficult Zipes-esque questions), that we start to gain answers.  It is through the reading of posts like Storyseekers’ that create thought and response and – realisation.

Libraries are very dear to me. Children’s Literature is very dear to me.  It’s only through understanding, and being able to contextualise and rationalise your relationship to something, that you’re able to understand it.

And it’s through that understanding, through that ownership of the role you play in the process. that you bring action.

So may I ask something of you this weekend, this week, this month? The next book you pick up, the next piece of printed media you consume, ask yourself why you’re reading it? Have you bought it from the library – the shop – from school? Do your kids read library books – do you know where your library is – would you go there from choice? And then – may I ask you to ask that of others? Blog it, talk it, tweet it, shout it. Let’s keep this discussion going.

Let’s keep it growing.

7 thoughts on ““The more we invest in children, the more we destroy their future”

  1. Hmm. So let’s stop creating children’s literature in order to reduce homogenization? I think there is a tremendous array within children’s literature. I would agree that what makes it onto supermarket shelves is homogenized and impoverished, but for me that’s another reason for libraries – a model where making a fast buck doesn’t apply, and therefore frees up a lot of creativity and risk taking.

    1. I do wonder if he’d say the same thing today. I agree with your point hugely – the library space should and could be more about risk-taking and creativity than profit. Thank you Zoe!

  2. Some initial thoughts before immersing myself in your links.

    My last book(s), have I bought it from the library – the shop – from school?
    Well, a bookshop, actually (Waterstone’s and Oxfam, as you ask) and half of them were children’s literature.

    Do my kids read library books?
    Actually they’re all grown up now, but two of my granddaughters read voraciously, from own books, library, school, and while two of my grandsons seem to spend too much time on their computers (I’m one to talk, aren’t I?) they have books by their beds and on bookshelves, and have a library just down the road, almost opposite their school. (The other two, a girl and a boy, are only around the one-year mark…)

    The Zipes comments seem contentious, but I’ll have to give them serious consideration before commenting myself…

    1. Thank you for sharing that. And yes, I agree with you, Zipes has a provocative edge here. It’s a brilliant book but it’s very much one of those sorts of books that I want to wade in and have a Strongly Worded Discussion with!

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