Do You Know What Your Children Read?

Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856

Not many days ago, we saw a couple of young ladies returning from the city library with several volumes apiece, which they had selected to read. In looking over the titles, we inquired of one of the ladies, "Does your father allow you to read such books as these?" Mark the reply. She said, "He does not know it!"

We would like to know how many fathers and mothers do know what their children are reading. The facilities for obtaining books, periodicals, and papers never were greater than at the present time. Not only good books, but books, publications, and prints, of the very worst kind are sown, as it were, broadcast over the land.

Publications of the vilest kind are eagerly sought by the young, and at an age when they are most easily ruined. By the reading and perusal of such books and prints, the mind is filled with an imagery that is pondered over until the heart is corrupted; and sleep, even nature's restorer, is disturbed by the mind's vile imaginings. Impurity of thought precedes impurity of action; and where you find the latter it may frequently be traced to the reading of that species of publications to which we have referred.

It cannot be regarded by any thoughtful parent, a matter of indifference as to what his children are reading. No parent should permit his children to select reading matter from any public library. The work of selecting books to be read by children should always be done by parents, or by someone whom they can trust.

There are books and prints in circulation among the young, that would put the most depraved to the blush; that is to say, if corruption itself can be tinged by shame. We took a book of this kind from a pupil in school, and consigned it immediately to the fire. The boy was very indignant at the time, but we rejoice to say that we have lived long enough to receive his most hearty thanks for it. It was, as we knew, and he can see it now, an act of kindness to him. The book was calculated to awaken impure desires, and to feed and nourish them until they should manifest themselves in acts which lead to the utter ruin and destruction of both body and soul.

How many a child, after growing to manhood, has sought an opportunity to thank his parents and teachers for like restraints, which at the time seemed cruel and unkind! The child will seek eagerly that which his passions and appetite urge him to. Being without knowledge and experience sufficient to guide him he must be directed by his parents and teachers. If they fail through indulgence to guide him aright, such parents and teachers will receive, as is their most just due the curses of such children in adulthood, as have been thus ruined.

If a child, who has a desire to read, has acquired a taste for light reading, and has free access to a public library well stored with such books he will read little else than what he ought not to read, and the more he reads the less intellectual power he will have, until, as is not unfrequently the case, he becomes unfit for serious and profitable reading.

What we would impress upon parents is, that they should know what their children are reading, and that there should be no occasion for them to say: our parents do not know what we are reading although the children know and confess that they are reading what their parents would not approve if they knew the character of the books. Parents cannot be too vigilant in the discharge of this duty to their children nor can children be too thankful for having parents who take the whole oversight of matters which have so important a bearing upon the formation of the character for all the future.