Racism in Classic Kids' Book Is a Bad Excuse for Banning It


Pippi LongstockingSome parenting trends are pretty easy to get behind. When someone says let's all raise our kids to be readers, it's a big ol' race to see who can fill those IKEA shelves faster. But while we're smack dab in yet another "get the kids to put down the video games and pick up a book" venture -- better known as National Young Readers Week -- news that yet another classic children's book is being ripped to shreds is a good reminder that it takes a lot more to be a good parent than following the trends.

A German theologian is arguing that Swedish classic Pippi Longstocking is racist. Parents jumping on the book-challenging bandwagon are technically correct. So what? If you're a good parent, does it even matter?

The first three books about the freckle-faced kid with the carrot-colored braids were written by Astrid Lindgren in the 1940s. At that time, Swedish citizens found it acceptable to use terminology that was completely inappropriate. Swedish publishers -- and eventually publishers worldwide -- likewise thought it was just fine to include said wording in books for kids.

They were wrong. But it happened.

Guess what parents? A lot of crappy stuff has happened in this world. Slavery. The Holocaust.

But we don't tell our kids' schools to stop teaching about them because they are in the past. It's common sense. We encourage them to cover history in order to give our kids the perspective necessary to prevent those atrocities from resurfacing. If they learn young that something is bad or inappropriate, they're set up for a lifetime of avoiding it.

So why wouldn't the same be true for the books they read?

You may want your kids to read books so they'll develop a kickass vocabulary that will help them slam dunk the SATs. I want my kid to read books because school shouldn't be the only place for her to learn more about the world (past, current, and future).

Dr. Eske Wollrad, a feminist theologian from Germany's Federal Association of Evangelical Women, says parents should skip over the racist language or skip the books. I think that's a cop-out.

It's my job to give my kid context for what she reads, not pretend the world has always been full of glitter and unicorns. I need to read books to her/with her, and explain that a racist reference in Pippi Longstocking reflects the times when it was written. I need to use it as a jumping-off point to explain how far we, as a society, have come.

You'd explain what a VCR is in a kiddie book from the '90s. I gave my kid a lesson on iceboxes when we read Mr. Popper's Penguins (written in 1938). Stop being so afraid of talking to your kids. If you want to raise a reader, this is part of the job.

What children's books from your childhood did you discover had references you had to explain to your kids -- positive or negative?


Image via Amazon

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Eques... EquestrianMom

Oh, wow, I grew up loving pippi longstocking, haven't read it in at least 15 years. I had no idea it was racist! LMAO! Nope, I will still read it to my son, and should he at some point notice language less then flattering to a specific race, we will discuss the age of the book, and how it was written in a time people considered that ok to use. But it isn't now.

 Who knew, Pippi, Racist! I'm truly shocked.

nonmember avatar Sheri

Most books are not politically correct in some way, shape or form, but that does not mean that kids should not be reading them.

Take great books like Pippi Longstocking as an opportunity to share views with your kids on right and wrong to help shape their characters into what you want them to be.

Lucre... LucretiaMcEvil

I'm not going to go read "Pippi Longstocking" to find out what is "racist" about it.

You should have just quoted it for us so we would know what you're referring to.

Grace... GracesMom1607

I agree with what was said in the article. I haven't come across any books with language that needs to be discussed but my daughter is only 4 so I'm positive the day will come. Instead of banning the books and hiding themes of racism or violence from our kids, we should be using these books as a learning tool to help our kids understand right and wrong and how everyone has differing opinions of others and to never use hurtful words or hate.

Doomy234 Doomy234

I dont think it is such a big deal. It reflects the time it was written in.

I remember in school we had to have a lecture about the book Huckleberry Finn because it contained the N word. Like it was the teacher's fault or something that the book was written that way. It really isnt any sort of big deal when you realize it was just how people talked back then. And even if it wasnt... Hey, free speech. You dont like the content, dont read it to your kids.

Nraw2011 Nraw2011

Doomey -  So you didn't like  that you and your peers were talked to about the book and its use of the word?  Wasn't the point to explain to the class that that was the way people spoke back when the book was written?  How would one know the content of the book until the book is read?  

hanna... hannahsmom238

My daughter loves Pippi we've read it a couple of times. I can't figure out what supposidly racist about it. It's about a crazy super strong little girl living by herself in a house right?

hanna... hannahsmom238

OK I just looked it up. Apparently, in one of the books some black children (I didn't say African American because the books take place in Sweden not America) through themselves in the sand face down in front of Pippi and her friends in deference to their whiteness. Thisactually upsets Pippi. I always understood this as the author making a statement against racism because Pippi was outraged that these kids would think they needed to do that.

momka... momkaribg

I'm not going to go read "Pippi Longstocking" to find out what is "racist" about it.

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