I am so excited that children’s literature is one of the Armchair BEA topics this week! This is something I’ve been wanting to post about for a while, especially since I get a lot of requests to review children’s books.
When it comes to children’s literature, there is a word that describes what I avoid:
Now, before you protest: Dr. Seuss books, Edward Lear’s nonsense poems, and the like are notexamples of twaddle! These works employ clever word plays, rhyming schemes, and use of rhythm. They don’t talk down to children; they encourage and stretch their growing minds.
Author Catherine Levison says, “. . . dumbed-down literature is easy to spot. When you’re standing in the library and pick up modern-day, elementary-level books, you’re apt to see short sentences with very little effort applied to artistically constructing them to please the mind. . . Gifted authors bring images alive with their choice of words.” (Defining Twaddle, May 30, 2007)
You know, no matter how tired I am and how often I’m asked to read Corduroy, for example, (and that is often), I love that book. I always find it sweet and charming. I find things in the illustrations I never noticed before. But if a book makes me wonder if I’m killing precious brain cells, or the illustrations look cheap, or the thought of reading the book more than a handful of times makes me want to scream or roll my eyes or implode, I know my money and my time spent reading to my child is better spent on other books.
A tiny sampling of our favorite examples of twaddle-free children’s literature for the 0-5 age range:
I use classics such as these as my model when selecting newer children’s titles (and when considering books for review). A couple more recently published children’s titles that meet the “twaddle-free” criteria are:
The time spent as a young child not yet able to read on one’s own is very short. I’m okay with my daughter choosing some trivial reads when she’s older whenever she’d like some lighter reading… I know I enjoyed plenty of that as a kid myself (still do as an adult)! But I hope that being exposed to high quality books from the start will help her balance her future reading choices.