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July 27, 2010

Copyediting and Censorship

I want to teach my girls to be respectful of their belongings and to instill the value of taking care of their possessions. One very stringent rule will be (as it was when I was growing up) that you never deface a book. Do not write in a book and do not bend the pages. Take care of your books, and you can enjoy them for years – generations, even! – to come. (I still have a lot of the books that were mine as a child.)

I feel ever-so-slightly guilty for having broken this rule recently, as I took a Sharpie to a couple of the girls’ books...but I believe it was for a valiant cause.

I’m trying to be very cognizant of the tone I use when I speak. I want my girls to grow up to be polite and respectful of those around them, and communication is such a huge part of this goal. The girls have started saying, “Uh huh” and “Uh uh” over the past few days. Although I know they’re not yet capable of “Yes, ma’am” or “No ma’am,” I have started interpreting their grunts for them.

In the same vein, I wouldn’t want them to use a word like “hate”. It’s an ugly word, and it has no business coming out of the mouths of my sweet babes anytime soon.

Why, then, do two of their kiddie books use this word???

I hate rats!” one (particularly bad-mannered) cat proclaims.

I cleverly used my Sharpie to cross out “hate” and replace it with “don’t like”. The pentameter of the poem does suffer a bit, but I can compensate if I read it just so.

In addition to tone, I also try to be very cognizant of grammar. I feel fortunate to have grown up reading lots of books, and having parents who spoke proper English. I can’t tell you exactly what a “past present participle” is, but I can tell you whether it’s used correctly in a sentence, just judging by whether it sounds right.

Nonetheless, I’m from the Deep South*, and there are a few blunders I’m prone to make..although I like to think of them more as colloquialisms

…I’m fixing to do something…

…I might could do something…

…I sat in the floor…[as opposed to on the floor]

Of course I would never use any of these phrases in written form (although I guess I just did!), but, as I want to set a good example for the girls, I’m trying to curb even those habits.

Imagine my surprise when I was reading a new book to the girls this week and came across the line, “B is for bear who I cuddle at night”.

I'm all about poetic license, but I expect basic grammar rules to apply in a basic A-B-C book!

So, again, I pulled out my trusty Sharpie and penned an “m” on the end of the word “who”.

And my world was OK again.

I know the girls don’t recognize what I’ve done at this point, but that one day they’ll see Mommy’s handwriting and beg the question, “Why do YOU get to write in our books?

And I will simply explain that this is one case in which the end (polite, well-spoken children) justifies the means (copyediting, censorship, and “defacing” books).

And because I'm the momma, and I said so (in my best Southern accent*, of course!).

*No offense intended towards any of my Southern friends and family. If you know me at all, you know that I love being a Southern girl! I just want to do my Southern alma mater proud...ROLL TIDE!!! :)


The Mommy said...

That makes a lot of sense. I scour B&N for hours only come back with just 2 books because I found "objectionable material" in some of the others I liked. I like your sharpie pen quick fix:)

MultipleMum said...

I'm with you! Defacing books is bad news in our house. The babies have been the worst scribblers (I don't know when they do it, but I see the results all the time!). I've taken to putting them all out of reach. Good on you on your 'censorship' mission too. I wish I were more diligent!

cat said...

Oh I also try to teach respect for books, but sadly, some have not survived the two boys.

Quadmama said...

I'm so OCD when it comes to books. I don't like dog eared pages, let alone torn or marked up pages. We have a few books, though, that have me ready to find a Sharpie. One is a cute little book about a noisy mouse named Nora. Unfortunately, every time she's loud her sister says "Nora, why are you so dumb?" Keep in mind the book was written decades ago. When I read it to my girls I change it to "Why are you so loud?"

Dolli-Mama said...

"Yertle the Turtle" by Dr. Seuse made me get my sharpie, as Yertle the Turtle King yells at Mack to "Shut your mouth!" My son repeated it back the first time I read it. Not Good! Now Yertle tells Mack to "Please be quite!" Much better! :)

Rebecca said...

It's so horrible, isn't it? I've gotten to the point where if I'm thumbing through a book and I find one thing wrong, I put it down. It may seem a little elitist, but let's set a good example from the start, right?

reanbean said...

We've had to replace several favorites in our house because they've fallen apart. I do my best to teach my kids to be gentle with books (no biting or walking on books!), but some do fall apart simply from the amount of use that they get. In my classroom, we called these "well loved" books, and would continue repairing and reading them until repairing was no longer possible. We do the same thing at home, but sometimes it's just easier to get a new copy. :o)

Karen said...

I have lots of fond memories of eating many of my childhood books. I think I soaked in the story much better that way. I promise I will not eat the book you let me borrow a couple of weeks ago, though!