Why The Need For Diversity in Children’s Books?

Baruch Hochman (1985) emphasizes the importance of historical and social context in our understanding of character. This is extremely important for children’s literature, since young readers may not be aware of the changing values presented through characters. For instance, child abandonment and abuse were acceptable before, but not today. We cannot judge a parent beating his children in a Victorian novel by the same measure we would judge a parent nowadays. The societal norms encoded in such adjectives as “nice,” “virtuous,” “well-mannered,” or even “pretty” differ considerably over time and from culture to culture. However, we do not always have the knowledge of exactly what these qualities denoted to their bearers. Again, this is especially important for children’s literature, since young readers may lack not only knowledge but also interest in this aspect. Therefore, they can easily fall victim to racist, sexist, and other prejudices.

– The Rhetoric of Character In Children’s Literature, Maria Nikolajeva

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