Daycares in Washington to Censor Books With “Frightening Images”

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The daycare censors are coming for you, R.L. Stein…

Stephen King’s latest spooky children’s book, Charlie the Choo-Choo, probably won’t be making it onto daycare bookshelves in Washington state anytime soon. Neither will R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series, or any other story that contains a hint of hair-raising imagery for that matter. According to the Guardian, daycares in Washington that receive support from the state government are being encouraged to self-censor their book collections, and their government subsidies are on the line if they don’t choose wisely. The Washington State Department of Early Learning awards grants based on a points system, and one of the newer stipulations for qualification is that daycare programs ensure only “appropriate books” are available.

The National Coalition Against Censorship is particularly perplexed by the provision discouraging daycares from having “books that glorify violence in any way or show frightening images are not considered to be appropriate.” The organization worries that the state is ignoring the educational value of narratives that scare children, or push them beyond comfort zones.

Sadly, it seems that book censorship has become a regular phenomenon for children growing up in this era. PEN America recently conducted a study which found that children’s books are more likely to be banned if they feature diverse characters.

While the effects of the new policy in Washington are yet to be felt, I for one can state with certainty that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I hadn’t read Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and lived in fear of the Cloud Men impaling me with snow if I said something snarky (despite growing up in sweltering Georgia). Come to think of it, aren’t all our favorite childhood fables a little disturbing? Maybe that’s just what some kids need at that age.

Which other childhood classic might run afoul of state authorities? What about Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, or Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are? What will become of Washington’s children without them? Let’s hope that these kids have access to books at home, or at least a decent library that isn’t quite so firmly under the state’s thumb.

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