Little Golden Books: How to use them?

Golden Books 002I recently wrote about the treasure trove of Little Golden Books that we were given by my Godfather. As part of my “museum origin story” the focus was on how their history and connection to the past was so exciting.

Now that I’ve spent more time with the books, there are even more interesting questions coming up. The first is about how you should use (or not) a historical object like this. These were given to my son for him to read. They were not intended to be handled with white gloves…but is that right? Some of these are WWII era with all the pieces intact. Although my son is extraordinarily careful with his books, he is still two and things will happen. So, should they be used? Or protected? If used how do you convey that they are something special to a toddler? If they should be protected, what does that look like for the average civilian (with no museum attached to their house).

I’m sure questions like this come up all the time, but people may not frame it in terms of “museum vs. use.” That special piece of jewelry, the antique china, the toy from your childhood. When do you hang on to it and when do you let it be used for its purpose? How do you preserve the stories even if it is being used?

As I paged through the books I also realized that some of them present a very real problem of cultural representation. While I can appreciate the place they play in history, where does that leave me when I read them aloud? I can screen out the ones that we are just not ready for or should only be used as historical context, but there are some that are borderline. The role of women in the stories, the way African-Americans are portrayed in illustrations (or left out completely)…this comes up even in the most bland stories like “The Taxi that Hurried

What is my role as a Mom? I can make sure that his bookshelf is more balanced and that these books only play a part, but it doesn’t feel right to let it pass completely without comment. After all, when the little boy is bouncing all over the seat because he isn’t buckled in…I mention that! This is a conversation that will grow and change as he gets older, but it is especially difficult at this age. It goes back to feeling like I don’t have the right words or explanations that are age appropriate.

This is not a post with any answers, just more questions. Would love to hear your thoughts!

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3 Responses to Little Golden Books: How to use them?

  1. Linda Gamble says:

    Even the most well-loved book still has merit while those that are “untouched and unread” really have not lived up to their potential. The doll you slept with every night means more to you than the doll that sat on a shelf. A home cannot be a museum, but the memories that objects evoke are not lost even if the object is damaged.

  2. A little late to the conversation, and this is a bit tangential to your post…but if you have some books by Lucy Sprague Mitchell, these are really interesting. She was one of the educators at Bank Street School for Children a long time ago. And if I have the story right, she looked at the literature for children at the time (1930s? 1940s? 1950s?) and noticed that much of it was not written for “city kids” who don’t have experience with “the pokey little puppy” or farm animals. So she went about writing books for kids who lived in urban areas that were more relevant to their experiences.

    That said – your son is too young yet to understand these nuances. I’d say that the books are meant to be used and read. Maybe there’s a way to designate them as “special” and allow them to be treated as such. I remember having some books as a child that my mom let me look at while she “supervised” so that I didn’t ruin them. It made looking at them even more special to me and the books more desirable (I think they had real watercolor illustrations or something, I remember the sheet of tracing paper/vellum that covered each of the illustrated pages). They were antiques, and actually learning to handle them properly I think gave me some appreciation for all the old stuff I now work with in my museum career. Maybe that’s part of the lesson to teach him?

    • There are a number of them from Bank Street, I was wondering more about the background on those. Interesting that it was aimed at the more urban audience! Good suggestions for keeping them “special” I do store them on a different shelf and since we still read together it helps moderate when they come down. Appreciate your thoughts!

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