Thursday, August 11, 2011

Skipping Page 7 in "The Story of Babar"

When we shield our kids from scary stories, who are we really trying to protect? (Boston Globe, 8/11/2011)

ExcerptOn the seventh page of “The Story of Babar’’ by Jean De Brunhoff, the little elephant is riding on his mother’s back when something awful happens: “a wicked hunter, hidden behind some bushes, shoots at them. The hunter has killed Babar’s mother!’’ The pictures tell the rest of the story - we see Babar happily atop his mother in one scene, crying by her side the next. The first dozen times I read the book to my son, when I reached that two-page spread, I would pinch the pages together to turn as one, and then skip on ahead. One night, though, when I was out of the house, his father read him “Babar’’ at bedtime.

“You skipped page 7, right?’’ I asked.

He looked at me blankly. “I read the book,’’ he said.

We exchanged some unpleasant words, and I was left to ponder why I’d been so afraid to read my son this page of “Babar.’’


Judith Schickedanz, professor emerita in the school of education at Boston University and a consultant to PBS children’s programming, says, “It’s really important to keep in mind that the child from 4 to 8 is really old enough to have quite a bit of information about reality - that adults can die and that includes their parents - but what they don’t have is a sense of probability.’’ It’s up to parents, she says, to provide a context to help their children handle ideas that both fascinate and terrify them.

Tatar urges parents not to overthink it; kids are “wonderfully curious. They are more intelligent than we give them credit for.’’

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