Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Importance of Books

Recently on The Writing Mother list there was a discussion about a YA (Young Adult) novel that was being made into a TV series. Some considered it poor quality entertainment because it seemed to glorify girls being nasty to one another.

The show focuses on the lifes of privileged teenagers in "an elite private school" in New York... hardly representative of the average young adult.

But neither were the characters in the Sweet Valley High books I devoured as a child. Twins in southern California whose parents were happily married. The twins had their own car, boyfriends and designer clothes. They got to go to malls.

And here I was, a pre-teen with divorced parents that fought like the Hatfields and McCoys, living in Northern Alberta where the mosquitoes had landing gear.

What the books gave me were a glimpse into an alternate reality. Because goodness knows I wanted an escape. But it was a harsh reality to escape into. It was the good and the bad... the cool clothes and the backstabbing friends.

Because that's what books do. They ask you to suspend your knowledge of the world you are in, and believe in another one. To trust that the author will take you for a ride... and a safe one because you can go back to your real life without the scars of backstabbing friends and evil plotters.

And it's what television shows are supposed to do as well. Granted, they pale in comparison to books, but they are supposed to serve the same purpose: entertainment.

What books (and tv) do not do is provide role models.

That's what we do. We: mothers, fathers, parents. We are the role models for our children.

Do they hear us talking negatively about our friends? Do they see us roll through stop lights? Do they hear us exclaim "sweet! she gave me back an extra dollar!" when we get our change at the store? Do they hear us swear?

Sure, there may be some limit testing, clothing choices or word choices that they may glean from their entertainment choices... but their character, their beliefs, their moral code... that comes from us. We must be the positive role models for our children.

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