Dear Book Lovers,

“I don’t protect my child from the world,” some parents say to me when we talk about children’s literature. I’m kind of taken aback. Probably, I hope, they mean they don’t try to isolate their child from the world. Not isolating the child I get, but what’s so bad about protecting?

In the Bible cities of any importance are walled. The walls protect the citizens from wild animals and marauding bandits. It is a disgrace for a city’s walls to be broken down, for it to be unable to protect its people. It is a sign of God’s disfavor.

But–and this is really important to notice–living within a walled city did not mean being cut off or isolated from the rest of the world. A city’s walls had gates. People and goods could come and go through the gates. But armies and raiding bandits were kept out. Domesticated animals came in. Lions and bears stayed out. There were some controls. It was a useful, productive way to live. The people who lived in the city were freer to pay attention to their lives. (I’m not saying that everyone who came through the gates was without malice and that mad dogs were never in the streets, but these were incidents.)

The world, the flesh and the devil tell parents that kids need to be wised up, toughened up. “Exposing them to life without restriction will do it,” promises the world, the flesh and the devil. They lie. They want children to be without protection, without walls, so that they can carry off their hearts and minds and enslave them. Me? I say, “Let’s hear it for walls and good gates!”