Does nostalgia drive our decision making around what books to read to our kids? It’s inevitable that we fall back on the stories and experiences from our childhood that made us happy but do we trust our childhood selves to choose what our kids read?
Last week I put out a Facebook post asking you all what your favourite books were when you were a kid. I was amazed that almost everyone listed Enid Blyton among the books that meant something to them, although I shouldn’t have been.
I remember sitting in my year two classroom as my teacher read us The Magic Faraway Tree. When I think of Moon-Face, I think of school and that feeling of wonder. I can still smell the trees in the playground and the feeling of warmth as winter turned to spring and the anticipation of summer and Christmas. All from a book. If I’m honest, The Enchanted Wood series made me want to be a writer.
Naturally, when I had my own kids I rushed out and bought them The Enchanted Wood series and couldn’t wait to give them the same gift of imagination and wonder. More though, I wanted to feel that way again.
I was disappointed. The worlds in the series were miraculous but only superficially explored. Worse was the obvious racism, classicism, sexism and xenophobia embedded within Blyton’s work. This is not a new discovery, her books are renowned for being problematic. Why then do we remember them with such nostalgia and drag them back out for our own children?
The world we live in today is vastly different from the one in which Enid Blyton wrote. Contemporary children’s literature reflects society’s changing attitudes and strives to be inclusive, emotionally sensitive and empowering. Yet we keep going back.
All I can come up with it that we are driven by nostalgia. Those precious moments of wonder and creativity that are sparked by the stories our parents and teachers shared with us. We weren’t able to process the flaws in Blyton’s work, only see the wonder. Our parent’s shouldn’t have read it to us. Our teachers should have known better. I shouldn’t have read these books to my kids despite the leap of imagination they create.
It’s time Enid Blyton’s books are put on the shelf and consigned to history, or at least completely re-imagined and re-written for a modern world. She is not the only one who ‘should’ be shelved and I count some of my most heart-felt favourites among them.
I’m jealous of all the books my kids get to read for the first time. I hope my future guidance brings them to rich, nuanced and caring texts that help them see the world as a better place.