Classic Lit vs Political Correctness

I have been thinking a lot about racial issues in lit lately. My daughter is six now and we are reading the classics as well as newer books. She has also been very inspired by Martin Luther King and his statement. She asked me loads of questions, we watched videos and talked about our feelings and I helped her class put on a show featuring an original poem and sing the song Jambo in front of the school. I felt very proud of my six year old for asking the hard questions and trying to get a better understanding of racial issues at an early age.

We are reading Little House on the Prairie and I read it as a young child and had forgotten the comments made about Indians. My Grandmother was a Cherokee and although I am pale, I grew up near the reservation and spent loads of time there. Chilhowie directly translates to land of many deer.

Reading this to my daughter I had to stop and think about whether I should continue reading the book to her or not. Then I thought this is the perfect time to read this to her. Let’s stop every time there is something wrong with these books and talk about it. Let’s talk about why it was written this way, what has changed since then and what still needs to be changed. I am glad we made the decision not to boycott but immerse ourselves in education instead.

What I want to know is how do you handle these issues at your house?

6 Responses so far

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    I don’t have kids, but I think it’s important for them to know how race was viewed in the past. As your daughter is six, maybe she won’t notice the racism in the books when she reads them? I guess if she asked you, I would say something, but maybe not specifically point it out to her? I don’t know- I have no children!

  2. Gravatar

    She does seem to notice and she does ask. We have had some great conversations. She is particularly interested in why we ‘used’ to treat people differently. She is a very sensitive child lol. She gave her tooth fairy money to the homeless person outside the store she was going in to buy candy..

  3. Gravatar

    I think it’s a good place to generate discussion with children. I’d want to give them some background before turning them loose on a book. The fear would be that they would be exposed to ideas that they would just accept and move on, rather than think about critically.

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    There’s a blog that discusses the portrayal of Indians in Children’s lit and she has a hole page on Little House…might want to check it out: It’s very helpful!

  5. Gravatar

    I think that’s a great way to approach this problem, personally.

  6. Gravatar

    I love the turn of phrase you used in this post (“the decision not to boycott but immerse ourselves in education”) and although I don’t have children myself, I think offering kids a chance to explore sensitive or weighty issues through books is a really wonderful thing. Props to you for guiding your daughter through those teachable moments! It already sounds like she’s growing into a compassionate person. :)

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