A lady came into the kid’s bookstore where I work a couple of days ago. She gravitated immediately towards the display showcasing Indigenous kids’ stories. Usually, it garners an occasional glance, but never the same attention as this woman paid them.
She straightaway took a heaping stack and went to the store bench to go through each one. She then told me that many, many of these authors are not Indigenous, and cautioned against the promotion of such appropriation.
— Inhabit Media (@Inhabit_Media) January 3, 2017
Many, which I will not name as I do not want to distract from the focus of this piece, also showed “Indigenous” art – not actually by any Indigenous artists. Somehow, these books got published. I felt immediately uncomfortable seeing these books and recalling the history of residential schools, where colonizers wiped out the “Indian” in the children, and imposed religion along with brutal violence – blurring the lines between the two.
Do you remember when Charlotte crawled across her web and wrote “SOME PIG!” about her beloved Wilbur?
How about when Jess and Leslie discover the Bridge to Terabithia?
Both these children’s books bring us joy and fill us with nostalgia. While their scenes and special moments remain with us, they also contain one of the hardest and heaviest topics that make even adults stir uncomfortably: death.
And yet, Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia are both stories that have endured within our cultural psyche and earned their place among the classics on our shelves.
Death may not seem like a topic we broach with children unless we absolutely must, but the pain of loss, the complexity of grief — simple as it may sound — is a part of life’s learning process. Whether the pain of Charlotte’s death due to old age, or Leslie’s sudden passing after a tragic accident — the sadness remains with us, and that’s not a bad thing.
C. S. Lewis wrote “a children’s story is the best art form for something you have to say … the form makes it easier to see into the depths, even of death.” Childhood may be thought as a blissful state of innocence and naivety, leaving many adults skittering around emotionally heavier topics. But if done with care, introducing children to concepts loss and grief through books can aid during major transitions and difficulties. Read more >>
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