Alan Simpson: The tiger who came to tea, left and did nothing more than that

ONE of the greatest pleasures as a parent is reading a bedtime story to your kids, where – if we’re honest – we are less bothered about educating them than we are about getting them to sleep quicker.

But it appears that we all are in fact guilty of breeding the next generation of rapists and domestic abusers because of our careless choice of reading materials.

According to Rachel Adamson, co-Director of charity Zero Tolerance, boys who read “harmful” children’s stories like The Tiger Who Came to Tea are more likely to grow up with an appetite for violence against women.

The Edinburgh-based group that campaigns to end male violence against women, has carried out an audit of books being read to infants in nurseries throughout Scotland.

It singled out Judith Kerr’s much-loved 1968 picture book for criticism, claiming it reinforces gender stereotypes.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea tells the story of an uninvited tiger who joins a young girl and her mother for tea, eating all the food in the house and drinking everything before leaving.

The girl’s father then comes home and saves the day by taking his wife and daughter out for dinner. Ms Kerr, coincidentally, escaped the tyranny of the Nazi’s in 1933 so it is fair to say she understood full well the full horrors of stereotyping and the dread of having aggressive and unwelcome visitors in your house.

Whilst Adamson did not call for the book to be outright banned, she did say it could be used to “raise a conversation” in nurseries.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, she said: “We know that gender stereotypes are harmful and they reinforce gender inequality, and that gender inequality is the cause of violence against women and girls, such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual harassment.”

She then questioned why the tiger was not female or gender neutral.

So there you have it and there’s not really much to add, other than to ask what kind of books does she expect to find in a nursery and what ‘conversation’ does she expect to be raised by under 5’s?

If nurseries book shelves were filled with books like an A to Z of serial killers, a dot-to-dot guide on how to ingest Class A drugs or a fuzzy felt Nazi farm, then she may have had a point.

But she didn’t and she doesn’t.

When a child under-5 reads it then all they see is a tiger sitting at a table eating loads of food and then they wish the tiger came to visit them.

Nobody comes to any harm in the book, which in itself is an unlikely event given there’s a hungry tiger cutting about.

It is what all good children’s books are and that is total fantasy that fire up kids imaginations. In a world such as this, escapism and nonsense have never been needed more – and that goes for adults too.

People should stop overthinking books and just enjoy them for what they are.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992