Education Article- The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books

Meghan Cox Gurdon has been the children’s book reviewer for the
Wall Street Journal since 2005. Her work has also appeared in
numerous other publications, including the Washington Post,
the Washington Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, National
Review, and the Weekly Standard. In the 1990s, she worked as an
overseas correspondent in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London, and
traveled and reported from Cambodia, Somalia, China, Israel,
South Korea, and Northern Ireland. She graduated
magna cum laude from Bowdoin College in 1986 and lives near
Washington, D.C. with her husband and their five children.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College on March 12, 2013, sponsored by the College’s Dow Journalism Program.

“On June 4, 2011, the number one trending topic on Twitter was the
Anthony Weiner scandal. I happen to remember that, because the number two topic
on Twitter that day—almost as frenzied, though a lot less humorous—had to do
with an outrageous, intolerable attack on Young Adult literature . . . by me. Entitled
“Darkness Too Visible,” my article discussed the increasingly dark current that runs
through books classified as YA, for Young Adult—books aimed at readers between
12 and 18 years of age—a subset that has, in the four decades since Young Adult
became a distinct category in fiction, become increasingly lurid, grotesque, profane,
sexual, and ugly.
Books show us the world, and in that sense, too many books for adolescents act like
funhouse mirrors, reflecting hideously distorted portrayals of life. Those of us who
have grown up understand that the teen years can be fraught and turbulent—and for some kids, very unhappy—but at the same time we know that in the arc of human life, these years are brief. Today, too many novels for teenagers are long on the turbulence and short on a sense of perspective. Nor does it help that the narrative style that dominates Young Adult books is the first person present tense—“I, I, I,” and “now, now, now.” Writers use
this device to create a feeling of urgency, to show solidarity with the reader and to make the reader feel that he or she is occupying the persona of the narrator. The trouble is that the first person present tense also erects a kind of verbal prison, keeping young readers in the turmoil of the moment just as their hormones tend to do. This narrative style reinforces the blinkers teenagers often seem to be wearing, rather than drawing them out and into the open…”

Read the rest of the article here: http://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/the-case-for-good-taste-in-childrens-books/. Happy Reading!

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