Sunday, August 18, 2013

villains serve an important purpose in children's literature

       Sometimes teachers may avoid reading books with villainous characters in them because they are afraid of offending parents or choosing an inappropriate topic for a particular age group. These are important considerations when one's audience is a bit young.  But, when a child reaches a more mature age, it is a mistake to avoid the portrayal of villains in their literature selections. Students need to feel a sense of self empowerment when fighting an enemy. They need to be taught that with outside help from their family and community leaders, they can fight injustice and should not be afraid to do so. 
      Children should also be made aware of their own tendencies to act a villainous part towards others, so that they may learn what is proper conduct and what behaviors are unacceptable. They must be taught the difference between correct conduct and incorrect conduct. Villains inside of story books provide for the "safe" observation of normally "unsafe" circumstances. Books with villains afford parents and teachers the opportunity to teach right from wrong without putting children in actual realistic danger. Religious leaders, the government, community educators, police officers etc... are candid about who we are, where we come from and how we should behave. Below I've listed a collection of books that I've used with my own children to teach them "how" to discern evil from good and also to teach them to laugh at villains so that they can choose not to be afraid of what can be changed. 
  • "Sukey and the Mermaid" by Robert D. San Souci, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney - Within the context of a fairy tale, a little girl finds courage to defeat an abusive home environment. She also discovers that she has friends who will help her defeat the villains in her environment.
  • "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything" by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd - a wonderful book to read at Halloween time to very small children. This story teaches children to manipulate "scary things" (not evil, but scary) for a productive purpose on a very simplistic level.
  • "Piggie Pie!" by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Howard Fine - One of my favorite books ever to read aloud. This story is about just "how" creative pigs can get when threatened by a silly, old witch.
  • "Judy and the Volcano" by Wayne Harris - A story about how an enemy can be transformed. Judy wants to be everyone's hero, but, first she must learn how to be a friend to the girl she envies, Madeleine Corsy.
  • "The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig" by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury - Consider what you may look like to your enemies.
  • "A Flower for Ambrose" by Anna and Edward Standon - When I was small, my father brought this book back to me after taking a short trip to Chicago. It is about an elephant named Ambrose who struggles to preserve a beautiful flower but he fails. (death is the villain of this story) Ambrose's many tears serve to water a dying plant and not long afterward the entire desert blooms because Ambrose has watered it with his very own tears. Little did I know as a child that this would be a story I would relive over and over throughout my entire life. But, my earthly and heavenly fathers knew it very well. The book is probably out of print. You will need to contact a book dealer to find it. (Delacorte Press, New York, 1964)

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