Should there be messages/morals in children’s books

I am over at Writing to be read with a post about whether there should be messages/morals in children’s book or not. Thank you to Kaye Lynne Booth for hosting me.

Growing bookworks 2

The idea that children’s picture books should contain a strong moral or message seems to be very popular among authors of books for young people. This notion probably emanates from parents and caregivers who are of the view that books are a tool for instructing their young, especially in our modern world of so many more risks to the welfare our children than ever before.

This idea does, however, always bring to my mind the lyrics of the song, A British Nanny sung by David Tomlinson, from the original movie of Mary Poppins:

“A British nanny must be a general!
The future empire lies within her hands
And so the person that we need to mold the breed
Is a nanny who can give commands!
Mr Banks: Are you getting this Winifred?
Mrs Banks: Oh yes dear, every word
A British bank is run with precision
A British home requires nothing less!
Tradition, discipline, and rules must be the tools
Without them – disorder!
Catastrophe!
Anarchy – In short you have a ghastly mess!”

Carry on reading here: Writing to be read

 

28 thoughts on “Should there be messages/morals in children’s books

  1. Popped over and read this and am responding here. Books have a moral center, whether overt or not I think. I too dislike overt moralizing in any literature. However, I would rather have children read books where good triumphs rather than the dystopian garbage so prevalent at the moment in YA fiction. I remember Philip Pullman saying his books were a refutation of C.S. Lewis. I prefer Lewis.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, I do agree with you. All books will send the reader messages and, for children’s books, these should be messages of team work, happiness, good behavior and the things we wish to bestow on our children and help them learn about. I don’t think the message needs to be obvious. If it is illustrated, that works really well. I also agree that some of the modern books have negative messages. This is actually why I wrote my Sir Chocolate books in the first place. I wanted to share positive messages with children.

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    1. Yes, I see your point on that Colline, especially from a teaching perspective. It doesn’t have to be obviously stated. If a character is kind and helpful to others, the children learn the message through identification.

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    1. Hi Jacqui, I do believe children’s book, and adults books too, should send good messages. With children, they must be positive. With adults, they can be darker and thought provoking. The don’t need to be obvious though. I don’t think children like being beaten over the head with a moral.

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  2. Wonderful post over at Kaye’s blog Robbie. I think every book leaves a message (s) whether consciously done or not. But yes, children’s books should be paid special attention to messages, and I think depending on the age group the book is written for should determine if they should be overt or not. 🙂

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  3. Your figures always bringing a great smile on my face, Robbie! I think the messages one will give to kids, are coming from a fantastic visualisation too. Some people think Grimm’s fairytales are too pessimistic, and maybe they are. Burning witches in an oven is not the best, you should tell to kids, even witches can be evil. 😉 Have a nice weekend! Michael

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  4. It can be difficult to find the right balance. Writing a story that will interest the child, and make him keep reading is very important, and I agree that all stories have some sort of message, but much is down to interpretation, and very young children will (hopefully) be guided by their parents and teachers. There’s much merit in a positive message, but life is not always positive, unfortunately. Great post, Robbie.

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  5. I think a balance is good. Children learn a lot about the world from books and in fact the fairytales we read to them were designed to have messages. Everything from empathy, kindness and friendship to sticking up for yourself, that not everyone in the world is good etc. If, for example a class or school has a theme for the week or term, or a child has a particular issue, then it could be useful to have books that specifically target that. A great book in these cases for suggestions is The Story Cure: An A-Z of books to keep children happy healthy and wise by Ella Berthoud.
    However, it’s also important that children read for reading’s sake and learn to love a wide variety of books. As adults, we also may prefer to choose books that have a particular theme or topic but then pick others for the sheer enjoyment of reading…I guess it’s the same for children?

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