Here’s what this parent thinks could be useful: Use content labels or advisories, in the same spirit of those carried in film and TV shows, that alert potential readers to problematic language or upsetting content.
Parents and teachers can have more information to decide on appropriate literature or find ways to help children understand and process the material. Inform the reader and help children navigate history and literature, not take that decision out of our hands.
Readers could also be reminded more prominently when the work was first published. Authors and their works are reflections of their time and experience.
“Words matter”, Puffin wrote in a notice for the revised works. Context matters too.
DISCOVER BETTER STORIES
What seems notable is that it wasn’t an outcry from disgruntled readers that led to this language purge. But if society reaches a point where Roald Dahl books are deemed incompatible with its time and values, I agree with His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman who said: “Let them fade away – read better writers.”
Enid Blyton books were a childhood staple of mine that have not aged well. It’s hard to read past the racism and sexism going back to them as an adult. So what I’ll do is look for other books, better books to introduce to my children – books that have empowerment and self-agency built into them, not merely papered over by a publisher.
For now, I will stow away my non-PC Roald Dahl copies until my kids are old enough to step into the fantastic and nasty world of Willy Wonka, The Twits, The BFG and Mr Fox. But I don’t assume they will take to Roald Dahl in the same way as I did.
There are and will be better stories out there for them and I hope to discover those with them soon.
Charlene Tan is an editor at CNA Digital where she oversees commentaries.