Armchair BEA: Children’s Literature

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Children’s Literature

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 not examples 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:
There are so many incredible children’s titles out there, but the books in the photo above are some of the stories my daughter loves the most. Simply Charlotte Mason has a wonderful list organized by age, as does Charlotte Mason Home Education. I reference these lists often when looking for new books to add to our library.
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.

  • Completely agree with you. So many wonderful books out there but I tend to stick to the classics with my little girl.

  • I completely agree! I have passed on a lot of my books to little girl. It’s a search sometimes to find a good children’s book.

  • When my brother was born (he was 10 years younger than me) I know my mum was perplexed at how much children’s lit and TV seemed to have changed – a lot more twaddle, a lot less quality. So she always stuck to the Aussie classics she grew up on and read to us girls before we could read.

    my Chldren’s literature post

  • So true! Thanks for posting the links. I think I will be referencing them more often now!

  • I love that you articulated what I’ve been struggling to say about new YA – there’s a bit of twaddle going on, and it’s hard for me to pick the good ones from the rest. Spot on post!

  • LOL @ twaddle! And definitely a lack of twaddle is best. Loved this post.

  • Twaddle! Yes, great word and acute observation of what’s going on in the current influx of young adult fiction…

  • Great post! Thanks for the links too. We are starting a book club for my girls this summer and are searching for books, this will be a great help!

  • I am soooo using that word tomorrow – over and over! lol Love your post! Glancing at your photo of your faves, I would say many of them are also on our list. We LOVE Sandra Boynton. My son is turning 7 this year and just last week he was requesting that I read/sing “Snuggle Puppy”. That’s a keeper! Thanks for linking in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! 🙂

    • hahahaha enjoy! Though sometimes the word makes me cringe… but it’s a great one. 😉