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What children’s books tell us about our cultural moment

January 4, 2018

Have you perused the children’s book section lately?  There are a few gems but you have to dig to find them. It may surprise you to learn that not all children’s books are seeking to teach children the values espoused by a Christian worldview. In fact, many children’s books are designed to do just the opposite.

In my quest to find an age and stage appropriate book to contribute to a recent book drive at the public school, I ventured into the children’s section at Barnes & Noble. I was supposed to get a Scholastic book and was drawn to one entitled, “Why Am I Me?” In this picture book children are asked to consider existentialism itself. Paige Britt asks the young reader, “If someone else were me who would they be?” No seeing yourself as an individual image-bearer of God, made on purpose and for a purpose. This book teaches children that they are interchangeable accidents without character. Erasing the individual altogether, the image shown to children is literally one where two children overlap and neither retains his or her distinction.

I moved on only to discover that some children’s books are not actually written for children at all. Two books that were clearly designed for adults who don’t like the outcome of America’s 2016 Presidential election nor the nation’s President were featured front and center. Viking’s “The Little Book of Little Activists” is full of photos of children too little to write the protest signs they were holding. The baby in the stroller with the sign “I marched before I walked,” did it for me.

I moved on to “The Pink Hat.”  Yes, you’re right. Those pink hats.

Children’s books shape us as a people because they shape the ideas, aspirations and identities of our children. Children are impressionable and those writing and publishing children’s books know exactly what they are seeking to impress into our culture by impressing ideas and ideologies into little minds.

I was then reminded of something I’d read midway through last year. I Googled “drag queen library reading” and sure enough, Drag Queen story hour is a thing in public libraries from San Francisco to Brooklyn – for toddlers.

This is not an article about igniting another so-called culture war. This is a post about the responsibility of Christians to cultivate the culture of which we are a part. We need to till the cultural soil by writing, reading and supporting good, high quality literature for children of all ages. We need to plant the right seeds and tend the garden of the culture in our local communities. Does your local library need volunteers?  Could you serve on the school board? What other kid or youth-related events or organizations could utilize your time, talents and ideas to positively impress the mind of Christ into the next generation?  

Sunday school is great, but the future of American culture is being cultivated in public schools and public libraries. What might it look like to be an ambassador of the Kingdom of God in the midst of that particular kingdom of this world?

For those wondering what I finally contributed to the book drive at my local elementary school, I turned to The Good Book company and gave a copy of Trillia Newbell’s God’s very Good Idea.  You can hear my conversation with Trillia about the book here.

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