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  • Nov

Janet serves up. Independent reading and the hidden prejudice within much-loved classics

Janet serves up. Independent reading and the hidden prejudice within much-loved classics

“Horrid woman!” Says my friend’s child. Bit unnecessary. And where did he learn this aggressive phrase? From one of his favourite books of course. It got us to ruminating on what a minefield children’s books are at age 6, 7 and beyond. This is where books have greater depth, more words, less pictures. And most importantly in this case, the kids are reading them alone. Us parents are no longer involved.

How wonderful, they’re reading alone. We’re proud and happy and quite frankly enjoying a bit of peace and quiet.

What are they learning though? Have a brief skim of an Enid Blyton or even, dare I say it, a Roald Dahl book and you will find the usual depressing gender stereotypes, or worse. Classism, Sexism and racial stereotypes that are at best offensive (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, I’m looking at you) and at worst dangerous (according to Blyton, the naughty travelling funfair people are to blame for the theft). Again in Blyton’s world, the way Janet serves the lemonade and tidies up after everyone makes me want to weep.

And the language is not great. “Idiot”, “stupid” and “shut up” get used all the time. Personally I find it shocking. Thinking back to my own childhood though, those words were used a lot by all of us kids. So am I being a delicate flower when it comes to children’s language or is it sensible to keep “stupid” as a banned word?

By Judy Skidmore

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