To the Editor:
After reading Alice Leishman’s letter (“Lois Lowry’s theory of children’s books contributes to aggression in public schools” (11/14)) concerning Lois Lowry’s Master’s Tea, I wanted to offer her a chance to peruse my bookshelves. My 500+ collection at home ranges across all kinds of children’s fiction, my favorite genre. But my collection also includes books like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a book I first read in fourth grade when my parents’ constant encouragement to read whatever interested me made censorship seem very distant.
Leishman suggests that we censor books that might “defile and pollute the young and impressionable minds” and instead offer children the Bible to read. As I am currently working my way through the Bible, I would say that books like Lowry’s The Giver, which promotes tolerance, understanding and interdependence, are more likely to encourage children to love and support one another than parts of the Old Testament are.
Leishman notes that “the rowdiest boy in the class” was attracted to The Giver, as if one should not encourage children who are associated with “crime and aggressive behavior” to read. Whenever a child is attracted to a book, it means something in that story speaks to him or her. A student who is “rowdy” often is dealing with problems that more well-behaved children have never faced, and so finding a book that truly speaks to him or her is often more difficult. Promoting reading is always a goal with such children, who may find, finally, in a book, that someone truly understands them.
While Leishman is correct in positing the need for good role models in children’s novels, children also need to see the real world that they already are experiencing in their stories. Children are not strangers to “anger, hatred, [and] jealousy”; they know that honesty does not always pay and kindness does not always live on forever. They will recognize such falsity immediately and discard stories as unrealistic and irrelevant. Children learn through mistakes, just as adults do, and they find more truth in fantasy novels that show their peers overcoming all kinds of obstacles than they do in stories where everyone is kind and friendly all the time.
Children need stories that do not paint the world in pastels, but do instead offer hope. Lois Lowry’s The Giver is one such story, as Yale students seem to have recognized long ago. It is a novel I would certainly pass along to my children someday, as it will teach them to care about the suffering of others.
Evans is a sophomore in Davenport College.