We have colds going through our house . . . yet again. As a special treat for our not-feeling-well kiddo, Mike bought Greysen a new book, “Mister Seahorse.”
Greysen is enamored with Mr. Carle’s illustrations. She runs her fingers over the first pages of “10 Little Rubber Ducks” and speaks about the colors. So when Mike brought home “Mister Seahorse” by Eric Carle, I was sure that this book would soon be a new favorite.
So, we sat together to read this lovely tale of fathers caring for their offspring. Heralded by other bloggers and referenced by other groups as a positive representation of fathers caring for their children, I was eager to read it. Eager, that is, until I came across this page:
Oh, Mr. Bullhead. Baby-sitting?
Years ago, while working in an infant/toddler classroom, I remember a mother sharing a story of how her husband, a kind-hearted father, wrote in his calendar on his phone the date and time he was going to care for their son while she would be working. With a chagrin she relayed that he had typed “baby-sitting J.” She proceeded to share with him why she thought that her husband, a new father, was not babysitting but rather a father caring for his children. See the difference?
Language and thought are interdependent processes. Developmental theorist Vygotsky would explain that language and thought develop congruently and that knowledge is gained through experience. Words, in this case titles or descriptions, mean something to us, and I think that they can influence the way we see our roles. Secretaries are now more commonly referred to as executive assistants. Politics, you say? I don’t think it’s just that. I think our job titles and descriptions have changed over the years as a reflection of societal respect for the work we do and the roles we play. In another child-care center I worked at – before I worked there, anyway – some teachers were called “floaters.” Such a transitory title for people who were caring for children! We changed the title to support the teachers and to better mirror their roles. I wonder if it changed others perceptions of their role in the classroom.
Throwing Out the Tub with the Bathwater
I certainly don’t want to stop reading this story because of one line, but Greysen is a bit young for this book to serve as a conversation starter kind of book. At 24 months, she takes these stories to heart. Descriptions of animals (their homes or lives, for example) define who these creatures are to her.
By the time they are school-aged, children have developed gender schemas, or expectations of what men and women do. Given the importance of these early years and the impact such concept can have on shaping the concept of Dad, I was disappointed to read this line. Ideas like this one can potentially become a part of her schema and understanding of what a father’s role is to his children. It discredits the genuine care that fathers take of their children. I, for one, have never heard or read of a mother baby-sitting her children.
I’ve been asking myself, should I censor this book until she is a little bit older? Greysen asks books to be read to her so often that she can recite lines here and there. She loves the illustrations so far, and prefers to flip through the pages herself, asking me to name each type of fish and plant, so we have only read the story through in its entirety once. There are many other pages of fathers loving their fishy progeny and of being model dads. While I’m not about to shelf a book that she is interested in, I’m not going to read the story as-is either.
Do you have books in your collection that have lines or images that make you think twice? How do you handle it?