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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My take on the madness: The banning of vintage children's books

As a children's book lover myself and a mother of children who love to read, I am appalled by the recent events occurring in response to a ridiculous portion of a recent law: the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) and its ban on children's books printed before 1985. Supposedly a health concern to children because of the lead content in their ink, these books are being taken out of circulation (by libraries, used book sellers, etc.) in response to CPSIA. (The law took effect on February 10, 2009.)

Personally, my library is filled with these very items and I have often been on the lookout for more treasures like them. I am a junkie for used book sales at local libraries. My shelves are pretty much filled at this time, but I was making plans to soon part with some of my old treasures and purchase new ones. Now it looks like there will be no market for these books, and I will be hard-pressed to find "new" used ones to purchase, with the exception of those that now command a higher price and are marketed as "adult collectibles".

I was saddened this week when I visited my local library's book sale room to browse the children's used book section only to read the following sign: "We will no longer accept children's books." Sure enough, the former children's shelves (which my children had often enjoyed browsing) were now occupied with popular fiction. Sadly, the library's booksellers decided that it would be too difficult to separate the pre-1985 and post-1985 children's books, and therefore decided to avoid selling any books for children.

As a personal response to these new developments (which appear to be happening nationwide), I've chosen to participate in an "illegal book meme" and am posting the list below: a handful of the many books I own that have suddenly become contraband. (I'll add photos when I have the chance to photograph the covers.) My collection of pre-1985 children's books includes many covering various topics: fiction and nonfiction, picture books and novels, classics and just plain fun reading.

I've chosen here to include a few books that are actually personal family heirlooms. Yes, they could certainly fall under the "adult collectible" category, but one of the joys of owning them is to see my children turning the pages of these books just as one of their ancestors did when she was a girl.

Lead content, bahhh!

What are the proponents of this law worried about? Brain damage?

I personally have never been injured by the reading of a good book - certainly not because of the ink in which it is was printed. In fact, more damage can be done to children's brains by taking these literary treasures out of their reach.

Here is a tiny sampling of my suddenly "illegal" book collection, all owned at one time by Anna Cowhey:

The Bobbsey Twins in the Country
by Laura Lee Hope

published 1907 by Chatterton-Peck Company

The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island
by Laura Lee Hope

published 1917 by Grosset & Dunlap

The Blythe Girls Three on a Vacation (or) The Mystery at Peach Farm
by Laura Lee Hope

published 1925 by Grosset & Dunlap

The Little Maid of Naragansett Bay
by Alice Turner Curtis

(title page missing)

by Johanna Spyri

published by Saalfield Publishing Company
(title page missing)

As Walter Olson of Overlawyered wrote so eloquently in his article for City Journal:
"...ours will be a poorer world if we begin to lose (or 'sequester' from children) the millions of books published before our own era. They serve as a path into history, literature, and imagination for kids everywhere. They link the generations by enabling parents to pass on the stories and discoveries in which they delighted as children. Their illustrations open up worlds far removed from what kids are likely to see on the video or TV screen. Could we really be on the verge of losing all of this? And if this is what government protection of our kids means, shouldn’t we be thinking instead about protecting our kids from the government?"

For an brief overview of CPSIA visit The New Book Banning: Children's books burn, courtesy of the federal government or Warning! Eating books could seriously damage your health. For more current news related to CPSIA visit the American Library Association website or Overlawyered. (By the way, don't trust Snopes for details on this issue.)

To view the "illegal" children's books in others' collections, visit this Flickr group.


Becky Thompson said...

Oh my gosh! I hadn't heard of this and am so grateful to you for posting it. It makes me MAD! My husband & I are book junkies---our local library has its sale Sat and I'll be there! I taught 8 yr olds in 1969-1971 and still have those books--I'm not parting with them! Our children's books are treasures and haven't killed anybody!

Barbara said...

Hi Leesa,
I also did not hear this one, but then again I'm overseas & miss a lot of news.
What ??? If I had the beautiful old books that you had, NO WAY would that scare me.
So sad... I thought that books were arms against ignorance.

BTW- I'm back rolling with my Genealogy blog. I posted today :)

Joyful Catholic said...

That is very frightening! I bet it's not the "paint and lead" but the 'moral values' and clarity of what family is that is the cause of this despicable 'ban.' "Big Brother," baby!! Old religious books are harder to find, too. I'm glad for the treasures I have of those!!! Orwellian world we live in now - it stinks.


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