What To Do With Problematic Children’s Books

Recently I stumbled across a post on a Facebook group asking an interesting question. A parent had been given some books they felt were problematic and didn’t know what to do with them. They didn’t want to give them away and put them in someone else’s hands, but also felt bad throwing them out. I wanted to share some tips for what to do with problematic books.

  • Re-Write: Don’t forget, you have the agency to change what you read! If you don’t like what a book says, change it as you read. Once I was reading “Sleeping Beauty” and mid-read I realized I wasn’t on board with kissing without consent and getting married after one day. So on the fly I said something like “Then the prince shook her shoulders gently and she woke up. They decided they liked each other, so they started dating. After a few years they decided marriage was right for them and got married.” Not the most eloquent, but it got the point across!

  • Discuss: Another option is to read the problematic parts and pause and ask some questions. For example, if I did read the original Sleeping Beauty, I might ask “Do you think you should get to know someone before you marry them?” or “Should we kiss people without asking?” etc. This is a great option for older kids who have some good critical thinking skills!

  • Edit: A friend of mine loved a book except for one spread that had the parent and child playing “cowboys and Indians” in full appropriative costumes. Instead of tossing the book, she just glued the pages together! It allowed her to keep the book and not compromise her values. Another version of this is crossing out problematic words. You can even work together with your kids to find substitutions. For example, if a book uses the word “crazy” which is ableist, you might work together and replace it with the word “wild”, depending on the context.

  • Make Art: For books that are largely problematic, make art out of them! Cut them up and use them for collages. With older kids, you could even do found poetry! Get creative! Upcycle that book!

  • Recycle: For books that are REALLY bad, just recycle it. I’ve only done this once because the book was so problematic I didn’t want anyone else getting their hands on it. It’s not the best solution, but a step better than throwing it away or giving a problematic book to someone else.

  • Library Books: For Library books, talk to your local librarian and explain why a book should be taken off the shelves. They are usually very receptive!

I hope y’all found this helpful! If you have any more suggestions for what to do with a problematic book. reach out and we’ll add them to the list!

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