Mary Carney was elected to the Marshfield School District last April and has had concerns from the get-go about the content of the Muppets book. Published in 1993 in partnership with the United Nations, For Every Child, a Better World incorporates familiar Muppets who teach small children that not every child has access to clean air, medical care, food, a home, school or a peaceful community. One set of pages shows a family eating a large dinner; on the next, you see a family with empty bowls. Children will see Muppets crouched in a cardboard box in the rain, lying sick on a bed and in a war-torn community.
Carney cites online reviews in which people say they were traumatized reading the book to children, but looking through the reviews ourselves, these types of comments are few and far between. In fact, we found only one on Amazon out of more than a dozen. There is no word on whether Carney will be successful (the head of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee told USA Today that she felt the book was fine and that no one else had any concerns with its content), but we'll certainly be watching to see how this situation turns out.
While it is a natural inclination to want to shield our children from the harsh realities of life, there really is no better way to introduce the concept of compassion than with Jim Henson's Muppets. Yes, these are definitely heavy issues. We don't want our kids to have to think about another child going hungry, not getting medical care or being left out in the cold. But it's happening, and it's happening right now at this very moment — not only around the world, but within each one of our communities.
Teaching children kindness, compassion and concern about the well-being of other human beings is vital. Too many adults are concerned simply with their own lives, which is evident — too often, seeing someone be kind to another person is cause for celebration, as our faith in humanity is restored. This is a sad way, really, to experience life, and starting when a child is young ensures that they have the best chance of growing up to be a compassionate adult who makes the world a better place.
No, this book isn't inappropriate. It's an excellent way to show children that all kids have a need to be safe, warm, taught and well cared for. If you don't do it with Muppets, then how are you going to do it?
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