Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Birth in Children's Literature: "The Bears' New Baby"

I haven't taken time to look into a lot of birth literature for kids yet - we've been relying more on birth videos and in-person explanations to explain our upcoming birth to our DS. However, my mom bought "The Bears' New Baby" for us, and it gave me a chance to peruse what's on the market - or rather, what was on the market, as this book was published in 1988. However, birth hasn't changed that much since 1988 (in public perception, that is), and I think it's probably a fair representation of what I would find in other modern mainstream children's literature.

Anyhow, it's a pretty standard book. Mama and Papa Bear explain to their daughter that a new baby is coming, and then they vanish in the middle of the night to the hospital, coming home a few days later with Baby Bear. Fairly standard. However, going over the specific birth parts of the book, I can glean the following lessons that are being taught:

(1) Birth happens in the hospital
(2) Birth is not for families (i.e. children) - only parents
(3) Birth is an emergency

I don't know if you want your kids learning these lessons. For me - NO. I would rather have them learn the following:

(1) Birth happens at home as well as in the hospital
(2) Birth is for families
(3) Birth is a normal life event

My readership may think that a mountain is being made of a molehill... but I don't think so. Social conditioning starts very, very young. The seemingly harmless lessons learned by children's literature set the base for deeply ingrained beliefs, acknowledged or not.

So, needless to say, I'll be looking for some better "baby is coming" children's books!

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