Upon reading the article “Betsy and the Canon,” I found myself feeling slightly disconnected. While I had experienced the often loathsome summer reading assignments, and was assigned several enticing pieces of literature in the last half of high school, that I would argue are listed as canonical works; I don’t remember being encouraged to read certain novels over others, specifically because they were something suitable for a young girl my age. In elementary school, I recall the reading level system, where certain books were color coded based on difficulty, and each student was awarded points based on how many books he or she read and how challenging they were compared to his or her grade level. However, no teacher ever specifically said ‘read this, don’t read this; beware of trash’ or impressed the idea of the canon onto me until I was at least in middle school, if not beyond.
In the article, Kelly Hager emphasizes the point that we have been noticing upon looking at the fairy tales and these early works of Children’s Literature: that canonical literature for children serves the purpose of impressing proper behavior and shaping the intellect of a fine young woman or gentleman. Kelly Hager mentions reading books such as Little Women and Anne of Green Gables repeatedly, as well as the canonical lists mentioned within those novels, and her article seems to give one a sense that she expects that those reading her article have also read these series and avidly chased down these lists of canonical texts.
While I have read Little Women, most of the books that were mentioned in the article I had never heard of. The authors I am familiar with, but I admit that I have not read many of their works. What then, instructed me on proper behavior? Was it perhaps television shows such as “Sesame Street”? How are children, these days, being taught what is proper behavior? How are they being taught to discern between ‘trashy novels’ and literature of the canon? Is there even as great of an emphasis on one’s need to read such texts over another, outside of English classrooms?