The Youth’s Temperance Lecturer didn’t last long, but it made an impression on editors of other periodicals, who reprinted various pieces. “Bad Booksdoesn’t provide a new argument, but it is unusual in that it tries to explain to children why they shouldn’t read exciting books books that provide poor role models. The argument that young readers could be inspired to emulate the wrong characters would be heard well into the 21st century.
“Bad Books” (reprinted from Youth’s Temperance Lecturer; from the Christian Watchman, March 1, 1833; p. 36)

I want all the little children to understand one thing. It is this. Although it is an excellent thing for little children to read, yet there are a great many bad books that they ought not to read. You must not think that every thing you see printed in a book is good, and ought to be loved ad followed, because it is printed. You know there are a great many bad men, who will tell lies, and talk bad words. And so there are a great many bad men who write and print lies, and make books full of bad words, and wicked advice.

You know that bad boys are bad company.—Just so, bad books, or bad newspapers are bad company. It is just as wicked to write and print wicked things, as it is to talk wicked things. And there is as much danger that bad books and bad papers will make people bad, as there is that bad company will make them bad.

The way in which wicked companions, or play-mates make children wicked, is by telling them wicked things, and by showing them how to do wicked things.—And wicked books are just like wicked companions. Evil words, and evil examples make evil company. Just so, evil words and evil examples, make evil books.

Now, a great many parents and teachers never seem to think of this. They are greatly pleased to see children read, but scarcely ever ask or think, what they read.

And men and women, generally, who would be ashamed of bad company, are not ashamed of bad books. This is one of the great evils of the world; and like other great evils, it will never be done away, unless children are learned to do it away. For older people do not love to alter, themselves; though perhaps they will let their children alter.

When we hear so many good sermons, when we see so many good books and tracts, and when we see so many churches and temperance societies, we sometimes wonder why the people do not all become good, especially in some places, where every one knows how to read. But if bad books, as we have shown, are as bad company, it is easy to see how the people are made bad. It is by reading bad books.

There was a certain mother, who used to give her daughters novels to read. And the novels told stories which made sport of honest, industrious people, and pretended that idle people, who lived in a grand style, were much better than they. Now this mother was an honest, industrious woman, herself, and when she found her daughters fond of dress, and company; when she saw them despise honest, industrious people, and when, as they grew older, they wanted to marry idle and worthless young men, she was very sorry, and wondered very much why they should be so foolish. She forgot that the novels she gave them had learned them to think and act in this manner.

There was a certain father who had a son, and took a great deal of pains to learn him good things. But he had some books which told stories of men who were robbers and pirates, who had ships and men, and swords, and guns, and fought and killed people. And the story was told so prettily, that it made the little boy think it was a fine thing to be a robber! So when he became a man, he went and became a robber, and was taken, and tried, and hanged. And his father wondered why his son became so wicked!

Now, children; be careful what you read: whether your parents are careful or not. Very few are careful, now-a-days. It is thought a sign of a great genius to write books which shall make pirates and robbers seem heroes, and gentlemen! And even ministers, sometimes, will praise the men who make such books!—So, children, be very careful. If you do not learn to be wiser than older people now are, I do not know what will become of the world, fifty years hence.

Copyright 1999-2020, Pat Pflieger
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