• I once read an article which interviewed a British man responding to why his children were so well-behaved compared to their American counterparts.  His response was simple, “Because we expect them to be well-behaved”.

    Recently, while at the library, I was reading a book which wasn’t about manners (since those seem to be the only books that emphasize mannerly language) and noticed there was something different about this book.  The child in the book had excellent manners, saying please and thank you often, and it wasn’t even relevant to the plot of the book!  Strange, I thought.  And confirming my suspicions I discovered that this book was indeed from England.

    I don’t have impeccable manners.  I’m not always certain of appropriate etiquette in social situations.  Until recently, I didn’t know (and didn’t care) where cutlery went on a plate to indicate to the servers that I was finished with my meal.  I do, however, understand the value of saying please and thank you.

    I’m not sure that most children’s authors remember their manners often enough.  And don’t get me started about current television shows out there.  None the less, I have spent the last six years reading children’s books on a daily basis and one observation I have made is that there is a glaring lack of manners evidenced in most books.  One popular book which I won’t name, but I am sure you have heard of, since there is a marketing line of product and now a Broadway musical about it, drove me crazy to read. My daughter loved it, so I took a permanent marker and crossed off words I felt were bratty, painted over the character’s mouth where she was sticking her tongue out (at her parents), and added in the words please and thank you wherever appropriate.  I wish all books had polite words written into the language for exemplary purposes.

    Since I have taken to editing my kid’s books with a ballpoint pen, they are reading about children who use manners without being reminded by their parents.  I am, unbeknownst to them, a secret editor creating literary role models.  We recently read a book that I hadn’t edited.  At the end of the book, my 4-year-old asked me why didn’t they say please or thank you.  I had to think quickly and launched into an explanation about how sometimes the tone of voice is more important than the use of the words themselves.  How saying something sweetly can imply politeness.  A motherly request to our American editors:  Will you kindly mind your manners when editing children’s books?  It will help make all of our lives that much easier!