Oh, how I used to love Richard Scarry books as a child. My joy at lots of tiny little things to look at all at once was fostered in these books, I believe. And now, Scarry’s books are getting a much-needed update, but not because the art is outdated.
Scarry’s BEST WORD BOOK EVER is a collection of great pictures and words to help an emergent reader start to make the connection between words and pictures. But as this book was originally published in 1963 (and updated once in 1991), some of the items needed to be changed to make it less offensive and more inclusive. And just how could a child’s book be offensive? It’s not what you think.
Consider the pages from the book, before and after.
In the photo on the left, Mother is working in kitchen making dinner. Back in the 1950’s, this would have been totally appropriate. But in today’s world, the updated version shows Mom and Dad both working in the kitchen…a job not designated strictly by gender.
More socially acceptable items were substituted as well, to avoid stereotyping a group of people.
It turns out, a lot of women were upset by the fact that women were always shown in dresses, and doing “traditional jobs”, such as being a nurse, or teacher. Never was the construction worker shown to be a woman in these illustrations, so the update has a more balanced approach.
Does this really matter? And if it does, who does it matter to more—the parents reading the books, or their children? Maybe both. Children need to see themselves in the books they read, and also recognize their own potential. Parents must also feel comfortable with this, and avoiding the problematic original illustrations, they can proudly share the books with their children and avoid questions they might have trouble explaining.
You can read much more about how Richard Scarry’s book has changed right here.