September 14, 2010

We Are the Message Bearers

I don't usually write about politics, but a recent visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. reminded me how easy it is to manipulate public opinion with carefully chosen words and images.

I was in town when the Museum featured an exhibit dedicated to Nazi propaganda. Hitler owned every media outlet and had a huge bureaucracy devoted solely to communications: publishing, airwaves, and film. He commissioned children's literature to demonize the enemy. Every household was given a radio so no one would miss his speeches. His newsreels flooded movie houses. In other words, he totally controlled the message.

Imagine how he would have used the social media available now. Scary.

Why should we care? Because we are today's message bearers, especially when it comes to writing for children:

- When we create characters and pit them against every imaginable foe, we encourage triumph over adversity.
- When we bring diverse cultures to life, we remind readers how much they have in common with others around the globe.
- When we breathe life into women and men seeking justice, we reveal a world where even the downtrodden have champions.
- When we craft stories that help children and young adults navigate various stages of life, we offer hope.

And in doing so, we take a stand against the small minds that would divide us.


  1. I visited the Holocaust Museum a couple of years ago; it affected me very much. And I do agree with you about the books as propaganda. Seemingly innocuous stories or novels have the power to infect readers with ideas, good or bad.

  2. I think writers for children, particularly, have a responsibility to steer kids into thinking for themselves so they can question the world and it various messages.

  3. Beautifully said, Kathryn. I would also add the importance of teaching children open communication. With out the freedom to question, they learn only to accept.

  4. LOL! I think Tricia and I were on the save wavelength. I didn't see her message 'til mine posted.

  5. Stephanie: I do expect books to have some sort of message, or theme, if you will, but the Nazi exhibit made it clear how a clever writer can twist things to nefarious effect.

    Tricia: Questioning any message is certainly an important skill, particularly these days, when we're bombarded with technological toys that leave little time for reflection.

    VR: Thanks! As for you and
    Tricia, remember what they say: great minds think alike. ;-)

    I hope that as children read and discuss messages in books, they'll come to understand and appreciate the importance of honest communication. However, given the current micro-management of teaching, it's getting harder to encourage open thinking (at least in the classroom).

  6. "Message bearers"--great tag, and great points. Some powerful thoughts here to consider. Thanks...

  7. Kenda: Thanks. I'm glad I was reasonably coherent, as jet lag stayed with me longer than anticipated.

  8. Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you


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