It is an eye-opening experience to flick through just a few children's books in your local library. The activity will show you much about the future of our society; what the future moral standard will be and societies views of spiritual matters.
An acclaimed Australian children's author was interviewed on ABC radio recently. In the interview the author eloquently stated he is not interested in writing books with morals. Rather he is writing what he thinks (and apparently is) popular; the gross, the extreme, the nonsense and particularly the crude. He said he wants his books to push the boundaries of what is acceptable for kids literature. This includes; crude humour, fighting with guns, non-nuclear families, and good losing to bad.
We realise that to some extent 'gross jokes' and the like are quite harmless and have always been part of childhood. But when the author is trying to push societal boundaries of what is acceptable content for children's books, surely it is a recipe for the denigration of innocent and wholesome children's literature. We worry it will install in its young readers an eagerness to reject meritorious behaviour and even encourage misbehaviour. As a society it is not in our best interests to be producing such young people.
A book in our local library, 'Big Mama's World' is a parody of the Biblical creation story of Genesis 1. It is beautifully illustrated and carries the message that it was a woman with a baby who created the world. The end page asserts that the world is a good place and when Mama feels like it she might look down on us and maybe give us a helping hand. Is the author a feminist having a go at the true God, or perhaps it is a mockery of the Christian understanding of creation? It is saddening to see children becoming confused through the reading of such books with messages that oppose the Biblical narrative and Christian theology.
There are many examples of children's books utilising mystical/spiritualist themes. From a magical flower that supernaturally helps a little girl communicate with whales to kids communicating with people of different era's. These stories are set in the real world. They are unlike fairy tales which are explicitly made up stories (the use of 'once upon a time in a far away land', and obvious unreal activities). Being exposed to such mysticism in picture books is likely to contribute to the adoration older children and teens have for series such as Harry Potter, Twilight and Mortal Instruments, which are now the most popular books for this age group. Perhaps we need to be reminded of King Saul who died because he ventured into the mystic world (1 Samuel 28; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14).
Children's books for a long time have developed plots centring on power and good verses evil. Great concepts but the problem today is that the power often comes from within us all to defeat evil. Unsurprisingly, as a sign of our times, children's books are becoming humanistic. As children are exposed to unbiblical concepts of power and supernatural workings, surely this will make it harder for them to understand the true and real power of Jesus Christ.
Of course, there are still many books that aim to teach children virtuous morals and values. But because of problematic ones, we as parents, teachers, gift givers, librarians, child carers, story tellers need to be so careful when selecting books. We need our critical minds on to discover that underlying messages. May the Lord give us wisdom and discernment as we help our children discover what can be an amazing world of literature.
Danielle and Daniel Stott are Bible College graduates who live on the southern Gold Coast. Daniel is training to be a teacher and Danielle is caring for their baby daughter.
Danielle and Daniel's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/d-and-d-stott.html