We also have a large collection of Dr. Seuss books, all of which were given to Elias. My mom doesn't like Dr. Seuss and refuses to read them to grandchildren. I didn't have many Seuss books growing up, I think I only had Green Eggs and Ham. I did most of my Seuss reading at the dentist's office and such. So I've been trying some of them out on Elias, learning the stories.
My college pastor would often work Dr. Seuss references into his sermons and lessons. Many have an inherent moral, and that is what I'm interested in. What does the author want to teach my child?
One reason I'm kind of sensitive to this area is the fact that some childrens books like The Berenstain Bears contained overtly un-Christian messages. I grew up on the Berenstain Bears, probably had most of their books. Nancy Pearcey, co-author of Total Truth, discovered a Carl Sagan message in The Berenstain Bears' Nature Guide. Pearcey writes:
Not long ago, I picked up a nature book for my little five-year-old about the Bernstein Bears, the highly popular picture-book characters. In this book, the Bear family invites us on a nature walk, and as you read you suddenly come across a two-page spread with a startling slogan sprawled across both pages with capital letters: Nature is "all that IS, or WAS, or EVER WILL BE."Kids are sensitive to stories, have vivid imaginations, and don't know how the world works. In their minds there could very well be a "Whoville" and "thneeds." Books and bedtime stories are some influences on their impressionable minds-- at least they were for me. So, some of the Seuss books are kind of strange. They don't contain any overt stuff like above but some of them contain a part or two that I wish was worded differently. I like some more than others.
Have we heard that somewhere before? The words echo the well-known line from Carl Sagan's PBS show "Cosmos": "The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." Sagan was echoing the classic Christian liturgy ("as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever well be"), and what he was offering was nothing less than a religion of naturalism--where nature takes the place of God as the ultimate and eternal reality. What Sagan did for adults, the Bernstein Bears are doing for young kids.
Green Eggs and Ham is about trying new things--try it, maybe you'll like it. I think it helped me have a mature palate for food growing up, as I'll try and eat just about anything. So, I can see us using that positively.
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories has some great stories about the dangers of pride. I could immediately think of Biblical equivalents to each of the stories. There's a fairly ambiguous statement about freedom in one of the stories.
However, The Lorax is a pretty depressing book about the overuse of resources. I could see me using it to teach him about taxing negative externalities. I could see other parents using it to teach their sons that capitalism is only destructive in the end. That seemed to be the overarching theme.
The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hatches the Egg, and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins have happy endings but lead to some fairly odd questions: Is it ever okay to open your home to a stranger and let him trash it when your parents aren't home? Do people really hunt elephants and aim "straight at his heart?" Is it really okay to kill a small child by pushing him off the castle tower?
I kind of skip over parts I don't like when reading some books out loud. Like a whole page of a weird sorcerer chant, for example. Maybe I'm way too sensitive and shouldn't worry about it even when Elias is old enough to understand. But, I take my responsibility as spiritual protector of the household seriously. However, I also want to encourage his imagination like Dr. Seuss does... ah, the dilemmas I'll deal with as he grows.
We've yet to get a good children's Bible. I bought a Genesis children's book from a door-to-door salesman last week but the artwork looks a little creepy.
So, I'm going to say that right now BusinessWeek and The Economist are probably my preferred readings so far, after Pat the Bunny and Fluffy Chick. That way he and I both learn.