Through literature, do we want to be teaching children the way that the world should be, or should we expose them to the sometimes very sad, harsh realities? Linnea Hendrickson, a professor from the University of New Mexico posed this same question in her brief article titled "The World as It Is, or As It Should Be?" Many of us remember growing up with stories of white picket fences and a "perfect" family with two children where the father goes to work and the mother stays home, but is this the perception that we want to give to our children? If a child is in a different home situation, will these literature selections make them feel like something is wrong with them?
I was just recently exposed to a children's picture book titled "Fly Away Home" about a young boy and his father and their caring relationship. Sounds nice right? But the truth is, is that this story, narrated by the son, is about a homeless father and son who live in the airport. The reader experiences the grief that the family has that results from this very difficult life. It can bring up questions and thoughts in the classroom that the children may not be ready for. Or are they ready?
We need to take the time to evaluate the choices that we make for the literature that our children are being exposed to and always have conversation about seemingly perfect stories or ones that portray difficult situations. Conversation is the key about making these stories meaningful.
In the conclusion of Hendrickson's article she says, "I suspect what the best books give us, and what we need, is a little bit of both, even though we do not always agree on'what is' or on 'waht should be.'"