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Controversy in Children’s Literature

As material aimed at some of the most vulnerable and impressionable members of society, children’s literature has long been a subject of controversy, both at the time of its release and historically. Contents and permissible topics within the field change depending on both the time period and cultural characteristics of the country of origin of a book. However, the issues of affecting young readers’ worldviews remain a permanent concern, as well as the consequent censorship debate.

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The topic of censorship in children’s literature continues to elicit debate between opposing sides, each of whom believes they are acting in the best interests of children. Censorship, which is based on personal views, is a perennial cultural flashpoint, especially when it includes youngsters, whose own voice in the discussion is at best muted. Censorship can take numerous forms and affect books directed at various sub-demographics within the children’s bracket. In addition to outright banning unpleasant books, several interest groups have demanded that particular books be transferred to areas of the library that are inaccessible to children, such as behind the librarian’s counter or adult sections where minors require parental permission to enter.

Some of the topical subjects that tend to provoke the pro-censorship discourse are common regardless of cultural and historical differences and concern areas traditionally classified as unsuitable for children. The matters of violence and sex, although parts of daily human life, are, for a good reason, perceived as sensitive when it comes to the young readership. Similarly, parents and teachers alike have engaged with children’s literature in its mentoring capacity and thus tend to be distrustful towards the examples of rebellious or disobedient behavior within it. And yet, over the course of history, some of the best-known works of children’s literature have dealt with subjects not only serious but also dark: death, fear, sexuality, mental health, loneliness, and violence.

Many children’s novels have dealt with complicated and seemingly grim issues for hundreds of years, but the public notion continues that such themes cannot be found in children’s literature. The Little Mermaid’s vicious and brutal misogyny and Alice in Wonderland’s depiction of a child’s developing sexuality are two of the most obvious instances. With Armin Greder’s picture book The Island dealing with violence and xenophobia, and All Shining in the Spring: The Story of the Baby Who Died dealing with infant death, children’s literature has not shied away from dealing with sad and distressing issues (Hartsfield and Kimmel, 390). Meanwhile, modern controversies associated with children’s literature debate whether it is appropriate to present these topics to a young audience.

The supporters object to any artistic censorship and appeal to children’s ability to think for themselves and come to conclusions on their own. The opposition, however, is concerned with both the moral connotations of some of the classical children’s books and the effects they may have on the behavior of young readers. Nevertheless, the existing research body mostly suggests that there is no direct link between exposure to dark topics and any behavioral deviations, which is particularly true with regard to violence.

Violence has historically played a prominent part in children’s literature, but in recent years, issues have been raised regarding whether violence should have a place in children’s literature. Modern storytellers have modified the horrible elements of old fairy tales to make them more digestible for modern audiences, as proven by their selections. Can it be argued that avoiding violence results in higher-quality children’s literature? Many academics feel that violence has a place in some children’s novels, provided it is utilized responsibly. They argue that violent literature isn’t always to blame for children’s aggressive conduct; rather, the incorporation of violence in good literature may have a positive impact on children’s life.

Violence is a major, if an unpleasant, component of life that has existed for generations and continues to do so now. As a result, it is an important and valuable issue to focus on in children’s literature because children should be aware of both positive and unpleasant facts in the world. Violence may serve essential objectives in literature when employed effectively and carefully. This is particularly true of adventure and fantasy tales that become the target of violence-related criticisms most often. Fictional violence does not appear to be linked to aggressive inclinations in youngsters, it stimulates reading interest, and it can help a kid learn how to cope with conflict or violence in their own life. While violence in literature can assist young readers in a variety of ways, certain criteria must be met before a book can be labeled as appropriate for a specific age bracket.

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Similar logic can be, arguably, applied to other darker subjects within children’s literature. Since it has already been established that some of the best-known worldwide literary classics do not shy away from somber aspects of life, ignoring or prohibiting such artistic treasures blindly is not really an option. Yet, young audiences are in fact susceptible to outside influences in the formation of their worldviews and are easy to impress. The solution would be to navigate the literary landscape together with a child, always being there for them to explain a possibly confusing element of a story.

Work Cited

Hartsfield, Danielle E., and Sue C. Kimmel. “Please Let This be the Crassest Thing My Child Reads!”: Exploring Community Perceptions of Challenged Children’s Literature.” Reading Psychology, 41.5, (2020), 369-402. Web.

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