Ladybird Books, a division of Penguin, is considering new censorship of many of their children's books based on fairytales, such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, after hiring sensitivity readers to review their catalog which they deemed contained "problematic" material, such as "Handsome princes - and beautiful princesses" falling in love at first sight "due to the privilege given to physical attractiveness and heteronormative romance."
According to the Telegraph, "Outdated or harmful elements in fairy tales, according to publishing insiders, may also include characters presuming each other's pronouns or social class, and a lack of diversity among blonde-haired and blue-eyed protagonists."
Other problems that happen "at first sight" in the fairytales, according to the sensitivity readers, are the "presumption of gender pronouns." Sensitivity readers recommend "gender-neutral language," such as when a princess first looks upon a prince and not to assume the prince is a man.
The status of princes and princesses themselves were deemed problematic, such as in Snow White, because it "may suggest to children that what is important about these characters is their social rank."
The sensitivity readers also said the fairytales were ageist for often depicting the villains as elderly and that their lack of diversity was a problem, as many princesses were described as "white, and with golden hair and blue eyes."
Industry experts told the Telegraph that these changes are necessary because these works of classic literature "may have a negative influence on children by teaching them to privilege certain values or appearances."
One sensitivity reader who was not on the Ladybird review, Virginia Mendez, said "There are many things that we see less and less in newly published books, simply because they are no longer the norm. In some cases, things are just easily avoided."
"For example, continually reinforcing the importance of being beautiful - mostly because beauty standards are very narrow and parents want their children’s role models to have more depth and wider defining features," she added.
Mendez also stressed the need to "debunk the heteronormativity that already reigns in most of the messages kids receive" by adding more stories with gay couples. "Not only is it kind and liberating for kids that happen to be gay, but also for the children of gay couples, or those who have gay family members," she said.
Earlier in February, the Telegraph published details on sensitivity readers finding that the works of beloved children's author Roald Dahl were offensive to modern readers. Dahl's publisher, Puffin, another division of Penguin, followed the readers' advice and censored the stories, and made changes in language regarding mental health, violence, gender, weight, and race that ranged from full portions being rewritten or cut. Examples include Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory went from being called "fat" to "enormous" and the Oompa Loompas went from being called "small men" to "small people." Penguin announced they were releasing uncensored "classic texts" of Dahl's body of work after backlash, including from PEN America.Ian Fleming Publications Ltd recently hired sensitivity readers and subsequently made changes to the James Bond novels.
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