Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Black Ear . . . Blonde Ear

How much influence do books really have? Clearly, as I confessed earlier, books can influence my dreams—but can a book really change me? Can it change society?

I just read the picture book Black Ear . . . Blonde Ear (available in the International Children’s Digital Library) by Khaled Jumm’a. This book has been distributed to Palestinian schools by the Tamer Institution for Community Education and the Department for International Development, UK. In the book, the black cats and the blonde cats have a longstanding feud. The story urges understanding and reconciliation between the two factions. Although the children who read this book may not realize it, these organizations clearly believe reading Black Ear . . . Blonde Ear will affect the current disputes in the Middle East.

Can a children’s book really have such power?

The first book I remember reading—actually reading to myself—was Old Hat, New Hat. I still have a fondness for that book. But I don’t have an obsession with hats. I remember my mom reading us chapter books when I was a child. She read Heidi, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and The Bear’s House. (The only memory I have of The Bear’s House is a sense of unease—I suppose it needs to go back in my to read pile.)

Reading books did change my life. I love to read. I majored in English—twice—and I work in a library. Reading does touch my emotions—The Bear House disturbed me, Pride and Prejudice has ruined me for any nonfictional male—but have books fundamentally altered me?

The Library of Congress has compiled a list of the most influential books. The top ten most influential books include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lord of the Rings (?!), and Gone with the Wind. Have these three books changed history? Can a book, alone, do so much?

I love books, but ultimately, my answer is no. A book cannot change history. But it can reinforce a child’s—or adult’s—beliefs and ideologies. Also on the top ten books are the Bible and the Book of Mormon. These religious texts reinforce an individual’s beliefs. Under Communism, children were forced to read pro-Communist books in school. But if their parents, neighbors, and teachers did not also believe in Communism, would these books be an affective tool for propaganda? Black Ear . . . Blonde Ear will not change the Middle East, it will not profoundly influence the children who read it, until it reinforces the reality around them.

1 comment:

Lisa said...
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