How old were you the last time you picked up a coloring book? I'm going to guess 6 or 7. Maybe 8 at the most. So why is a new coloring book meant to mark the 10-year anniversary of September 11 being packaged with a warning that any kid 10 or younger shouldn't be left alone with it?
We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids' Book of Freedom is loaded with graphic images, including a scene meant to show the death of Osama bin Laden, complete with a man holding a machine gun to the terrorist leader's head. Which your kids are supposed to color, of course. It sounds creepy. And adult.
But coloring books, by and large, are for little kids. My 6-year-old still loves to color pictures of Mickey Mouse and butterflies. She adds stickers and glitter. It's fun.
That's what coloring books are: fun.
September 11, to put it EXTREMLY mildly, isn't fun. It's a serious day in our nation's history. It's a tough one to talk about with our kids, and we need to find ways to bring it down to a kid-appropriate level.
But is a coloring book, synonymous with fun, really the right way to do it?
I don't know, and I'm having a really tough time with this one. I was just sent a copy of Art for Heart: Remembering 9/11, a moving book of images all drawn by kids in the wake of 9/11. It comes from a therapeutic art project sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to help kids in New York City recover from the tragedy. Art, it proved, can really help kids work through grief and pain and misunderstanding.
So why don't I feel the same way about this coloring book? Maybe it's the images already released -- like the picture of bin Laden with a gun to his head. I had to tell my 6-year-old why people were cheering a man's death a few months back. That was confusing enough. I don't think I could show her a picture of a man with a gun pointed at his head and say, "Hey, get out your favorite colors and have at it! Don't forget the glitter for the turban!"
Maybe that's it. Maybe that's the difference. Telling your child to create art that reflects their feelings comes without rules. It lets them do what they want. It allows them to treat a serious subject the way they see fit.
But a coloring book, by its nature, tells kids what to think and how to think it. You're supposed to color in the lines.
I won't be buying the 9/11 coloring book for my daughter. How about you?
Image via Coloring Books