In the last few years, I've noticed a lot of sensitivity and overprotective behavior from parents, and books have really taken a hit as a result. Over 100 books, a lot of them classic novels, have been challenged over the years, resulting in censored copies and even bans from certain schools and libraries. Keeping inappropriate materials away from young children is one thing, but now we're taking away books because they portray misbehaving children and dangerous situations? Some of the books on these lists have really shaped me as a reader, a writer and a person.
This is something that has always bothered me, so naturally when I see an article about one of my favorite childhood author's books being changed over the years, I couldn't not read it. Richard Scarry has published over 300 children's books. Most of the books took place in Busy Town, with recurring characters such as Huckle Cat and Lowlie Worm. I grew up with these books and even watched the TV shows. These characters were more than just pictures on a page or screen. I grew up with them.
I started reading the article to see what changes had fallen upon my beloved friends in Busy Town. The writer began by stating that the changes are good, but this being a society concerned with political correctness where it doesn't need to be, I was still skeptical. This time, however, the changes really were good.
If I were to pick up a new copy of one of Scarry's books I don't think I'd even notice that anything has changed. It's subtle, but it is important. Scenes that used to portray a woman in the kitchen or a man doing field work now show couples doing house and field work together. Titles like Police Man and Beautiful Lady in Danger have been changed to Police Officer and Cat in Danger. Some of the many male characters have been changed to females. It seems unimportant. I didn't even really see the point at first, but it is important.
One of the things that made Richard Scarry's books so influential in the first place is the way they educate children. Most of the Busy Town books portrayed simple tasks and everyday activities using animals, labels and easy descriptions to teach children what goes on around town every day. It's simple and genius. The book that is addressed in the article I read is about families and careers, specifically what to be when you grew up.
As I read on, I realized exactly what these changes are going to do for little readers. Instead of paging through a book and seeing men doing hard work and women looking pretty, they will now see men and women working side by side, doing the same jobs and, overall, being equal. Little girls will know that they can do anything that a boy can do, and little boys will see that girls are no less than they are.
Not everything needs to be changed to keep up with the times, but this change isn't overkill at all. The children that will be reading these books are young and impressionable. They are formed and affected by everything they see and hear in ways that we couldn't even begin to know. Seeing the old pictures and reading the old words may seem harmless, but they contribute to the worldviews and mindsets that the world is riddled with now. The new ones will promote equality and start to eliminate the mindset that women answer to men and that they cannot do the same things.