Did You Know Some Children’s Books Can Be Dangerous?


A visit by the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus is not the only service offered by our program. At each visit, a Legacy Library containing approximately 50 books is presented to our community partners. The Legacy Library is a mix of books for preschool children, with an emphasis on Canadian authors and a portion of Aboriginal stories.

Each year, the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus leaves over 5,000 books in communities across Alberta. In addition to all the other criteria for choosing quality children’s books, safety is an important consideration. Since books are not classified as toys, they don’t have the same safety regulations. Following are some hazards we watch out for:

  • Books for babies and toddlers might have choking hazards. Books for young children are made to be so entertaining that sometimes the safety of its pieces is not considered in the design. Any pieces small enough to fit through a paper towel tube are a choking hazard. These pieces are usually fastened to the page with glue that may be toxic, so it’s doubly important to ensure they are securely stuck to the page. Always monitor the child closely if playing with a book of this design.
  • Some books might have lower quality binding and pages. If you can easily pull apart a book at the seams, or take apart the layers of cardboard in a board book page with your fingernails, so can babies.
  • Some books that teach textures will have a fuzzy fabric attached, often on the cover. Don’t be afraid to pinch at the fuzzy material to ensure that it won’t come off and present a hazard, as is often the case.
  • Bath books can be a fun way to introduce reading to a child, but they are often filled with toxic materials. Before each use, check them over for any punctures or tears. If there are any, throw the book away. Repairs might not hold, and the chemicals from any glue or tape used could also be toxic or pose a choking hazard.
  • When buying, consider how easily the book can be cleaned. Books can become very grimy, and little ones want to chew on the books more than anything else. If you can’t clean the book, not only can it grow bacteria but also toxic mould.
  • One more thing to consider is the edges of the book. Are they sharp, or nicely rounded? If the edges are sharp, babies can cut their gums.

Shopping for books with safety in mind may seem a little daunting, but it’s worth the extra time. If you happen to have some books in the house that don’t pass the test, there is no need to throw them out—unless they’re toxic—just be sure to keep them out of the hands of your little ones.

Learn about book safety and more by attending one of our parent workshops, another service we provide. The C.O.W. Bus facilitators will discuss a variety of early literacy topics. If you would like to arrange a C.O.W. Bus visit to your Alberta community, please call the Centre for Family Literacy at 780.421.7323.

2014 C.O.W. Bus schedule 2015 schedule coming soon!

Make a donation to the Legacy Library

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2 thoughts on “Did You Know Some Children’s Books Can Be Dangerous?

  1. Thanks for this clarification Darren and for the blog on book safety Sharon. Love the extra information you share.

  2. I recently asked Health Canada for some clarification about this issue and found out a bit more about the regulations and procedures that are in place in Canada.

    While books are generally not considered toys for the purpose of enforcement of Toy Regulations (under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act), they may be classified as toys “when they have characteristics that encourage interactive play.”

    That said, toys do not need to be certified or pre approved before being sold. Industry is responsible for ensuring products comply with regulations, and Health Canada reinforces and strongly encourages them to do so. Health Canada also conducts inspection, sampling, and testing projects every year and follows up on customer safety incident reports. Recalls and safety alerts are released based on their findings.

    So, I would still recommend checking everything over before giving it to a baby or young child to play with. Think about whether a book could be perfectly safe for you to share with a child, together, even if you would never leave them alone with it. And, here are a few more resources to help you make those decisions and get the word out about sketchier products:

    “Is Your Child Safe – Play Time” :
    Health Canadians (Recalls and Safety Alerts):
    To report a safety concern about a product:
    Call your regional Health Canada Product Safety Office: