maxresdefaultNCAC has written to Washington State’s Department of Early Learning, expressing concern about a regulation that prevents childcare providers from selecting potentially “frightening books.”

The Department’s Early Achievers Program provides subsidies to childcare providers that meet a sufficient number of Training Quality Standards. One such standard states that “books that glorify violence in any way or show frightening images are not considered to be appropriate” for children. NCAC argues the standard runs the risk coerces childcare providers into self-censorship; those who violate the standard are faced with the loss of subsidies. Indeed, NCAC has received reports of childcare providers who have chosen not to read time-honored classics like Where the Wild Things Are.

NCAC expresses concern that the stipulation is overbroad, potentially excluding pedagogically valuable materials from daycare provider’s selection options. Fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood could, for example, be prohibited. Providers might also be forced to consider non-fiction books about dinosaurs, natural disasters or large animals as in breach of the regulation.

What a child consider to be frightening is subjective, NCAC’s letter continues. The “frightening image” standard may thus prevent daycare providers from tailoring a reading curriculum appropriate for each child. Classics like Where the Wild Things Are and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed may be frightening, and perhaps inappropriate, to some children, but certainly not to all.

The letter was co-signed by American Booksellers for Free Expression, American Library Association, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, PEN America, and Washington Library Association. 

Read the full letter below; click here for a full screen view.