Eric’s parents came to visit us in Portland last year when I was pregnant, and—like they always do—they brought gifts. One of the more thoughtful presents was a heavy stack of Little Golden Books and other titles Eric grew up with.
Granted, I was pregnant and had more emotions than should be legal, but the story was heartbreaking. (Spoiler: I’m going to tell you exactly why.)
The book starts out with a dog chained in a store sitting on a concrete floor.
Then it is taken home by a boy—yay!—only to endure abuse from the other dogs because it never learned to dig. You know, because it spent its entire life living on a concrete floor.
Anyway, it goes on to learn how to dig but it digs so much that it ruins the town with all the tunnels and is ostracized yet again. There’s probably an eventual happy ending but I can’t even recall it, so scarred was I by the ongoing trauma of that poor dog.
Goes without saying that I haven’t read The Digging-est Dog to Peeper yet.
Anyway, the other day I heard a story on NPR about The Little Engine That Could and the arguments about gender it inspires today. (Apparently the engine in question is a she, which makes some people think it was changed by liberal apologists, which it wasn’t; other critics say it’s one more example of women taking on more than their share of the work; still others view it as the great-grandmother to the lean-in movemement. Me, I just remember it being about a train.)
Now that I’m reading a ton of kids’ books to Peeper, I see the stories with new eyes. For example, Julius, a present my dad inscribed to me on my fourth birthday, now smacks of racism, colonialism, imperialism and probably a few more -isms I’m forgetting.
If I read it to Peeper, would she just hear a story about a friendly gorilla? Or would she internalize the subtle attitudes that imply Indians are sub-human and that it’s acceptable to plunder other countries’ natural resources?
Ok, so perhaps I’m reading more into it than I need to. Or maybe I’m not. I do my best to show Peeper books with positive messages that align with our values.
Do you “edit” your kids’ reading material? Is there a book you reread that seemed totally different through your adult lenses?