Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dear Barnes & Noble...

Dear Barnes & Noble,

Let me start by saying that I really do love you.  I love your smell, and the friendly faces throughout the store.  Employees always seem happy, and more than willing to help.  I love the kids programs you offer in store, and have even hosted one myself there once!  My kids love the train table and could stay there for hours if I let them (because I got rid of the one at home that they NEVER played with).  I love all the beautiful books, and I love and appreciate that the educators discount applies to homeschoolers as well, because homeschoolers tend to spend WAY too much on great books.

That being said, we need to have a talk.  About two months ago, I visited your store twice within a couple weeks.  I brought my four young children, ages 2, 4, 6, and 8 with me, as always.  We shopped and browsed and they each picked out a book.  And then we headed for the check out counter with books in arms and smiles on faces.

We waited in the long line (happily). We turned the corner and were SO close to our turn when my then 4 year olds asks, "Mommy? Why is this girl using her hands to cover her boobies?"  I look down, and smack in front of his little 4 year old face I see a lovely magazine with a woman dressed in just her swim bottoms and her hands for use as a bra.  Legs spread, and sexually tantalizing.  Perfect. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (or whatever this nonsense is called) is displayed at exactly eye level for children along the check out counter.  At Barnes & Noble.

Two weeks later, we head to the counter with books again, and what do I see?  A new magazine has taken its place, but is still just as sexually charged as the first.  And still, at children's eye level.  My children look towards the back of the store instead of up towards the counter.  Conversations with curious children about why people are selling (or buying, for that matter), magazines with "inappropriate"content on them.  I mentioned it to a store employee, who said several employees had raised the same concerns to corporate (sounds like many places where corporate dictates placement of product), but that nothing had been done.

Now look, we are anything but prudish in our home.  I freely breastfed (without covering at home) all my babies past their first birthday, have little boys who think being butt naked is the coolest thing since sliced bread, and littles who will still jump into the shower with me to get clean.  However, we do teach our children to value privacy and modesty and we talk about the importance of keeping our privates private and that we clothe ourselves appropriately, and "no you can't just wear a sports bra and shorts to the store" and our bodies are not for sharing with everyone and no one can touch you in any of your private areas and all that jive and on and on. And so my children, who really don't freak out over the naked human body in a safe context of in their home while changing or whatever, are already able to distinguish that what they were seeing was totally not appropriate.  And boy, were they curious and question-filled for the next 15-20 minutes.  Sigh.

Our children are being bombarded with our world's over sexualization from a young age.  And now, Barnes & Noble, you have joined the rest of the pack with placing inappropriate content right where children will be standing and staring for several minutes while they wait.  While we're fighting so hard to teach our children to reject the pressure to be like the photoshopped celebrities on magazines, or teaching them how to LOVE their body and not be ASHAMED of their body but still have RESPECT for their body, we all need to do our part to help them also stay child-like and innocent. My four year shouldn't have to learn to pull his eyes away from a beautiful, half naked woman on a magazine.  He's FOUR.  He should only be worried about his super cool book he's about to purchase. Our children should not be subjected to the hyper sexualized magazines that are being placed in front of them.  Playboy magazine's and the like do belong in their eye-sight range.

Barnes & Noble, you have the most fabulous place where children can fill their minds with the most wonderful stories and insights and info and all the things we would want them to read about.  I want my kids to LOVE being in your bookstore (and all bookstores, for that matter).  I want them to crave the written word.  But I am so disappointed at the lack of thought that has gone into this placement.

I recently heard a friend complain about the same problem, but yet a different magazine at the counter.  This is not just me.  This is other moms and dads, too, and I'm sure the placement is similar at other stores around the country.  We want our children to be children as long as possible.  Please, make a change in your magazine placement.  Help us as parents to protect our children's eyes and hearts and to make the bookstore a safe place for our children to explore.  Keep your magazines, I really don't care.  But please, please, please, put them back behind the counter again where their little eyes cannot see them.

Thanks Barnes & Noble,

Sincerely,

Jessica Locke
A mom who loves her kids and books

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