Saturday, April 14, 2012

To (Junie) B. or Not to (Junie) B.

The other night my daughter was sitting on the couch, reading a book to herself and laughing out loud.  She was not reading a great work of literature, but one of the Junie B. Jones books.  Now, I know that Junie has been criticized as modeling poor behavior, not to mention poor grammar, but I was still surprised when talking with some acquaintances to find that several of them do not allow their children to read these books.  (I wonder what they would do if their children were in my daughter's first grade class, where her teacher is actually reading the first book aloud to the whole class!)  Why would I deprive my child of that laugh?  And more importantly, why would I deprive her of the chance to make her own judgments about Junie's behavior?  Characters in books are not supposed to be role models.  They are supposed to be friends, entertainers, and sometimes, a jumping-off point for a discussion about the choices they make. They are supposed to show us new ways to think about ourselves and other people and the world around us.  A role model rarely does that as well as a more complex, nuanced character does.

That doesn't mean that I don't think that certain books are inappropriate for my daughter right now.  So I will warn her if I think a book is too hard or too scary.  And I will not go out of my way to present her with books that I don't think are appropriate... or even all that good.  And if I can't stand the book personally, I won't read it to her.  But when she finds a book on her own, I let her read it.  And laugh.


  1. Absolutely! That kind of censorship really bothers me. I also admit to taking much more notice if a book is popular with kids than if it has one an award.

  2. Here! Here! I HATE it when people say that kids (and their parents) in books should be perfect role models!

    I don't censor Kiddo's reading, either. I find it interesting that he instinctively knows what books are at his level -- for example, even though I leave the middle grade books I'm reading lying around, he never picks them up to read himself.

    That said, I also don't read certain books aloud - like Captain Underpants, which my 3 year old thinks I should read to him -- but now he is "trained" to know that he has to look at them by himself!

  3. dad who thinks his kid is smart enough to make her own judgmentApril 17, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Agreed. The idea is to see the good and the bad in the world, and the consequences, and to not just make your own judgement, but develop the capacity to make your own judgement, which is part of what childhood is about (learning to be a responsible adult, through experience). By this logic, the Torah is not suitable reading material for children.