Garbage In, Garbage Out

Some parents are happy if their children read anything. I am not one of them. I’d rather my kids watch hours of “Dora the Explorer” than read some of the children’s “literature” out there.

Q recently checked out Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Fabulous Life from the school library. Guess what? I don’t love it. It’s in the tradition of pandering books about silly girls with bad attitudes and nasty mouths who manufacture social drama in the name of plot. The fact that “dork” is slang for “penis” is a minor gripe. Go ahead; check it out. I linked to the series’ website so you can judge based on the most complementary angle on this drivel, tripe, book-like object.dd1-large

I cannot control what she chooses at the library. She goes with her class, and I am not about to ask her teacher to censor Q’s selections based on my criterion. She is a classroom teacher, not a nanny. This is not a battle I want to pick, because it is not one I can possibly win, and frankly, I don’t think it is necessary. Books let us try on someone else’s life and explore new worlds with only an investment of time. There is even a place for mindless and silly entertainment. I unapologetically loved “XENA: Warrior Princess” for years and consume PG Wodehouse novels like candy.

However, what we feed our minds matters as much as what we feed our bodies. A mind fed on a diet of pandering entertainment will be weaker and less healthy. Q’s behavior took a turn while she read this book. She got snippier, less happy, and Hot Swede noticed phrases from the book coming out of her mouth. When she read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, she played pioneer girl, we had discussions about the Native American/US relations, and I taught her how to embroider.

I won’t forbid her to read these garbage books, (Forbidding something is the quickest way to pique her interest.) but I did make scaffolding for her reading. I explained my concerns with this book and we talked about the importance of putting good things into our heads. She may read another of the Dork series, but must finish Anne of Green Gables first, and so it will go- rubbish, literature, dreck, literature. Hopefully, the trash will become less frequent by her choice. If she comes home with Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ll volunteer to chaperone library trips.

What children’s novels do you love? Which ones stink to high heaven?

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8 comments on “Garbage In, Garbage Out

  1. heidi says:

    I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder set, the Anne Grables set, and then I also was a fan of Judy Blume. In between the decent reading, i added the Babysitters Club. It wasn’t Sweet Valley High, but it was light and I didn’t have to think. What I really liked about Babysitters Club was that they were always supportive friends. There was no back-stabbing or catty behavior. They were *friends.* Now, I’d add Harry Potter to the list. I think the whole process of reading a series was magical for me.

  2. Never read Babysitter’s Club, but nice to know that they were positive relationships, but I enjoyed all the others you did. I loved the Little House series, Narnia, Madeline L’Engle books, The Ramona series, anything Roald Dahl, The Black Stallion, EB White stories, Swiss Family Robinson, and a book or two by Cynthia Voigt.
    Oh, and Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky for poets.

    Harry Potter is brilliant- good characters, exciting, good relationships and moral sensibility (except for breaking school rules:) but Q is too young. They are too special to waste before you are old enough to really soak them up.

  3. Megan says:

    I remember reading books by Bill Wallace, Where the Red Fern Grows, Narnia, and Madeleine LEngle books. I loved my Sweet Valley High, before I graduated to my mom’s Danielle Steel books (what WAS she thinking!?!), but I also loved both the old and new Nancy Drew series. Somethin’ about those redheads…..

  4. bronxboy55 says:

    I loved anything by Beverly Cleary when I was a young reader, and many years later I enjoyed reading them with my daughter. Anne of Green Gables is a great story and beautifully written — and I’m not just saying that because I live in Prince Edward Island.

  5. t h i n g s + f l e s h says:

    i think Because of Winn-Dixie is a good one. The Secret Garden. Roald Dahl’s novels, yes … my fave, though it’s not just for children, is The Little Prince. tony

  6. Ah yes, The Little Prince. I have a friend who gets irritated any time someone says that it’s just a children’s book. I will tell her that she is not alone.I’m putting it on my to-read list, as I never have.

    My favorite Roald Dahl is “The Twits.” I loved those nasty Twits as a kid.

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