Literature has always played a vital role in educating young minds it acts as the seed of ideas, the fount of inspiration and the basis by which children develop their own unique way of looking at the world. On the other hand it can also be said that literature can act as a constraining force in a person’s life.
By limiting the type and amount of literature a person receives during their formative years of learning they can develop ideas which are overly focused on a single train of thought, less adaptive and imaginative and constrain rather than facilitate their interaction with the broad range of topics, lessons and individuals that they will encounter over the course of their academic learning experience.
Intellectual Development through Literature
It was actually noted by childhood development researchers such as () that children who are overly coddled by their parents actually develop into individuals that are less independent, more likely to be socially inept and developed personality characteristics that are detrimental towards their continued growth as independent individuals (Rosenbaum, 1991).
Taking this particular viewpoint into consideration, it can be seen that to limit the types of books a child is allowed to learn is the same as coddling them which results in a child that has a limited literary background from which he can draw from in order to interpret and understand the world him.
Childhood educational researchers such as Molenda and Bhavnagri (2009) state that introducing children to a broad range of literary topics early on helps them to develop a certain degree of mental acuity in understanding a broader range of topics ranging from environmental degradation to social conditions, economic realities and even human suffering (Molenda & Bhavnagri, 2009).
In fact it was proven by Sackes, Trundle and Flevares (2009) that children introduced to a broad range of literature often performed better in academics as compared to children that had a limited degree of exposure to various forms of literature (Sackes, Trundle & Flevares, 2009).
When introduced to new literary topics which help to pique their interest children begin to develop a certain “hunger” to learn and explore and as such facilitates a greater degree of academic accomplishment which carries on later in their life (Gutman, 2010).
It is based on the facts presented that the necessity for literary freedom becomes obvious since through it children will benefit through the attainment of a broader viewpoint regarding various real life topics and will be able to develop a certain degree of intellectual maturity.
On the other hand it has been argued by various parental groups that a certain degree of censorship is necessary when it comes to certain types of literature pertaining to either overtly sexual or violent themes.
Such arguments were also initially presented during the introduction of sexual educational classes within various schools throughout the U.S. however it was noted that educating kids regarding the possible dangers associated with sexual intercourse was far better than allowing them to explore on their own and thus bring about untold ramifications (i.e. early parenthood, spread of sexually transmitted diseases etc.).
While this paper does acknowledge the fact that certain types of types of literature are “improper” for young children, parents need to realize the fact that most teachers know what they’re doing and the lessons they create through various forms of literary works are for the benefit of their children and as such it makes little sense to implement forms of censorship.
Detrimental Effects of Literary Censorship
What must be understood is that literary censorship limits the ability of a teacher to expand the way in which children view the world.
For example, works such as the Tale of Two Cities, the Three Musketeers and Jonathan Livingston Seagull help to develop a certain degree of positivity in children in that they teach them lessons related to self-improvement, doing what’s right and the necessity of cooperation yet such literary works fail to address the other half of what people experience namely anger, revenge, crime and despair.
Works such as the Giver, the Count of Monte Cristo and even Eleanor Updale’s Montmorency series which details the various criminal exploits of the main character help to balance what children learn.
It is balance that is necessary in giving children a proper literary education so as to impart the lesson that things don’t always go according plan, that there are many ways in which to arrive at a solution and that in this world there is both good and evil yet the lines between them are often obscured (Gutman, 2010).
By creating a balance children are able to understand the world in a broader context and as such are able to make more informed choices regarding their lives which in the end is of paramount importance as they continue to grow and develop.
Importance of Including the Grapes of Wrath
It is at this point in my argument for literary freedom that I would like to point why the book “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck is a necessary part of my curriculum. Due to the housing crisis that began in 2008 within the country million of Americans have been affected by economic hardship, the need to cutback in certain costs and even face the possibility of economic destitution.
The scale of this problem is not to be underestimated and it is very likely that several of children within my class have families or know someone that has been affected by financial recession. It must be noted though that children are often unaware of what economic recessions are, what it means to survive through such hardships and the need to adapt to changing economic environments.
The story of the Grapes of Wrath will help children to broaden their understanding of the connection between problems that happen within economies and how this affects family units resulting in them being able to understand the degree of worry and apprehension that is currently affecting either their parents or those they know have been affected.
This enables them to cope with what is happening with their family and to understand the necessity of reduced luxuries and treats due to the need to survive (Swick & Williams, 2010). What must be understood is that children should be made aware of problems and not be thought of as “being too young to understand” it is actually quite surprising what children area capable of understanding at even a young age.
Through understanding comes a certain degree of realization and intellectual maturity which will serve them well as they continue to grow and develop.
Aside from it’s importance in relation to a real and present scenario the books helps to gradually reveal to children various mature themes such as murder, still birth, death and abandonment. While it may be true that such themes are considered by parents as being “too early” to be introduced to children I say it is a necessity to have them understand the various realities that surround them.
It is naive to think that all the children within a classroom are living an ideal life. Though it may not be obvious some of them have gone through the exact same things as seen in the novel. Some of them were abandoned by their fathers or brothers, relatives have died, baby brothers or sisters never same home from this hospital or that they have experienced a certain degree of financial destitution.
By teaching them of how characters in the book cope with the situations that they themselves endured these kids will be able to realize that there are other ways of looking at what happened to them, that they can still be who they choose to be, that there are still other avenues for them to pursue and that their live is not dictated by events but rather what they choose to be (Gutman, 2010).
Grapes of Wrath helps children to develop a certain awareness of despair, suffering, and pain yet through this they come to understand the world a little bit better, are able to empathize when someone experienced what they read in the book and are able to bring what they learned into their lives and improve they way in which they themselves are able to cope with problems (Swick & Williams, 2010).
It is from this that it can be seen that literature is an avenue by which children learn and mature. It gives them the ability to see beyond the obvious and understand the underlying nature of things and through this they grow and develop into responsible and intellectually flexible adults.
Based on what has been presented in this paper so far it can be seen that literary freedom is an important facilitator in helping children develop a certain degree of intellectual maturity by broadening their understanding of the world and the various ways in which it works.
Instituting measures of literary censorship not only reduces their capacity to learn but limits them to only a particular way of thinking which will not serve them well as they continue to mature and develop.
Children need to understand both the good and the bad in life, they don’t need to be coddled forever, rather it is at times necessary for them to understand how the world really is and as a result develop their own unique and independent way of viewing it.
Gutman, D. (2010). How I Corrupted America’s Youth. School Library Journal, 56(5), 28-31. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Molenda, C., & Bhavnagri, N. (2009). Cooperation Through Movement Education and Children’s Literature. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(2), 153-159.
Rosenbaum, A. A. (1991). The spoiled child. UNESCO Courier, 44(10), 32. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Sackes, M., Trundle, K., & Flevares, L. (2009). Using Children’s Literature to Teach Standard-Based Science Concepts in Early Years. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(5), 415-422
Swick, K., & Williams, R. (2010). The Voices of Single Parent Mothers Who are Homeless: Implications for Early Childhood Professionals. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(1), 49-55.