Children’s books reflect quite accurately what’s going on in American life, what adults consider to be important; what values they see as desirable. Although books certainly aren’t the primary influence on many children, they help to shape children’s values and attitudes in subtle ways. And the books our children read are more likely to reinforce the largely secular influence of the general culture than to open up alternatives.

This is not to say that most children’s books are bad for children. North American publishers have produced many excellent ones, many that give children flashes of insight into human life in language that is a delight to experience.

But there is hardly any Christian presence in this field. Most books for children are not controversial but simply secular. Perhaps that is part of the reason why few Christians involve themselves in assessing children’s books and in producing books that reflect a Christian perspective for young readers.

The vision of life children find in their books is largely the same vision that inspires the thousands of adult titles that pour out each year. In 1966, for instance, Zena Sutherland suggested in her column in Saturday Review that American children needed more books about minority races. Within a year, the climate of opinion had moved in that direction and she had stacks of such books on her desk, waiting for her evaluation. Books about minority children became books for minority children as adults shifted their goals from full and immediate assimilation to preserving cultural differences. To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, has a character that is very dated today, a strong white lawyer who tries to use his professional skills to rescue a defenseless black man. Today’s ...

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