Didn’t think I’d make it today, did you? tsk tsk...
So I was asked a question the other day and it’s one I’ve been asked before. It’s going to be the topic for today’s post. The question was: Do you think literature for youth should have characters with strong morals, or at the very least tell a story that helps kids develop stronger morals?
When I hear this question I usually turn it around and asked if they believe literature for adults should be held to the same standard.
Of course, the answer is always “No!”
And yet, for some reason there seem to be many who share this belief that kid-lit requires a different set of standards.
But when it comes right down to it, my problem with the assuming kid-lit needs to teach a lesson or have characters who'd be good role-models, is two-fold: First, I believe the question doesn’t give kids enough credit.
Kids are smart. They’re savvy. They’re thoughtful. They are not going to jump off a bridge because a character in a book does so--not even if they make bridge-jumping look uber-cool. They’re just not. Nor will stories about wizards turn kids into sorcerers (oh how I wish it did), or diaries of wimpy kids turn youngsters into selfish punks (not that Greg--aka the wimpy kid-- is a selfish punk).
That said, Caillou will utterly destroy your child, so keep that in mind!
The second reason is that when you require literature to teach something or have characters who are morally praiseworthy, you remove the possibility that reading is something people do for fun. There doesn’t need to be a reason to read beyond pure entertainment—and that goes for kid-lit too.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying kid-lit CAN’T, or SHOULDN’T teach something. Nor am I saying that it MUST NOT have heroes who are good role-models. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t HAVE to have those things.
I remember reading an interview by JEFF KINNEY, author of the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series. And he was asked why his series seemed to resonate with the readership. His answer:
“I think that what kids like is that Greg seems authentic. I really strive to not moralize to kids or to have a strong, underlying message in my books. They’re written to be entertainment. They’re written to be humourous.”
I agree with Mr. Kinney wholeheartedly. But that’s my opinion, so I’m curious what you guys think.