Page 13, 28th May 1937

28th May 1937
Page 13
Page 13, 28th May 1937 — WHAT DO THEY READ ?

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Complains An American

inspired by the capable and now worldfamous League of Decency, there has sprung up recently in America a new group calling itself the Junior League for Decent Reading. The League of Decency has done its work of "cleaning up " the films with quite remarkable success, but its aims were simple and its orders were very definite. This new group stipulates that its members are not to read any suggestive comic strips and no book or magazine that contains suggestive articles br stories. This is a difficult objective for a variety of obvious reasons, but it ,has been suggested by one of the Catholic papers there that these new crusaders should go after something definite and strike first at the yellow press, which has a colossal circulation in America, is sold for so small a sum that anybody can buy it, and is choc-a-bloc with filth and the most hideous suggestiveness.

" Let them go tooth and nail after the tabloids," writes the paper I mentioned. " They are the printed matter where the worst of everything finds place—and not fiction, but fact. They can be bought for two cents, so everybody can have them. And though their comics may be clean enough, heaven help the child who is turned loose on the other pages. The pictures alone and the screaming headlines are enough to give a lover of children real nightmare.

"The Public Wants It"

" The public wants it," rings the old battle cry — which was also the movie moneymakers' shout, and which is heard no more through the land. thanks to the efforts of the League of Decency! " A boycott of tabloids—there you would find me in the van fighting, but it does small good to anyone to peer anxiously at comic strips or hunt through magazines for an improper story or picture! "

Up to a point, I agree with the woman who wrote that. although I don't think she takes the influence of books quite seriously enough, for she says later in her article: " As for books, many people don't read them. It is perfectly amazing to learn how many people read less than two books a year." But equally amazing, surely, is the number of people who read nearer to two hundred. . . " Many people don't read books," she says. But many more people do! And incalculable harm is done to some of them by the books they read.

A Benevolent Censorship

Something ought to be done about it; that much is certain, But what? And how? The most practical suggestion that occurs to me on the spur. of the moment is simply

that parents and teachers should exercise a benevolent censorship over the reading of their young people, and thus inculcate

in them a taste for good books, well written. It is as useless to tell a child as it is

to tell an adult that he must not read a certain hook, for such is curious human nature that the fruit which is forbidden becomes immediately the one and only fruit that is desired, and you may depend upon it that he will find some means of getting hold of the one book you would give anything to save him from reading. Then, when the villain once has it, he will search for the evil which, had the book never been forbidden, he might never have remarked.

It is a delicate and dangerous task to train children's taste in reading, and to train it towards decency. Still, it can be done by parents who take an interest in their youngsters' minds, who discuss their reading with them, and who—this is, perhaps, the most important point—read and possess only decent books themselves.

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