Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Horrible Books for Children


Sometimes, I have poignant posts about school psychology that are woven into a delightful tale from working with a student. Other times, you get my ramblings about random stuff that occurs to me and happens to be loosely related to school psychology. This is one of those posts. What can I say, I’m still adjusting to being back at school and I need some time to dust off the thoughtful reflection part of my brain.

My mom was a teacher for 30 million years and just retired. She has about 300 million books she doesn’t know what to do with. Oh wait, yes she does—send them to her granddaughter, Toddler B! We have the world’s most extensive library and the good news is that Toddler B can’t get enough of shared book reading. She is practically exhibiting Kindergarten common core standards for retelling. Brings a tear to my eye. My baby is growing up so fast. Sniffle. 

The only problem is that some of the beloved books I remember from my childhood actually suck. I usually realize it about half way through reading out loud to my girl.

Take Little Red Riding Hood, for example. I remembered it was a cute little tale of a girl who takes goodies to her grandma and outsmarts a wolf. What actually happens:

Me: So little red riding hood and her grandmother got eaten up…um…by the wolf and..erm..the hunter…[reads silently: CUTS OPEN THE WOLF AND RED RIDING HOOD AND GRANDMA COME TUMBLING OUT]

Me: the hunter…um, The End! Pass me Curious George!

Or when I read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I remembered it as a cute little tale of a boy’s nice relationship with nature. Turns out, the kid is a greedy little taker and takes everything from the poor tree until it is a sad, sad stump and dies. Neat. Nice message.

The worst so far is the poem Waltzing Matilda. I remember it as a jaunty little poem about an Australian bushman doing…um…I don’t really know. Perhaps waltzing. But no, it is a charming tale of an Australian bushman stealing sheep and then KILLING HIMSELF AND HAUNTING PEOPLE. Well that’s a nice one for right before bed, isn’t it?*

Looks like a fun and jaunty little tale, right?
Note to self: preview all children’s books before my daughter turns into a wolf-slaying, greedy, nature-hating, sheep stealer with suicidal ideation. Or, should I just realize that I read twisted books as a kid and turned out to be a pretty darn snazzy individual? Even though I use the word “snazzy” to describe myself, I think you get my point.  I just can’t help but analyze children’s literature themes when reading to my child. It’s a sickness. I might just have to have a psychological debriefing after the sketchy ones. Or stick those guys in the garage. Haven’t decided yet.

At least I warned you this post was going nowhere. You’re welcome.

* And don’t even get me started on the pre-teaching of vocabulary I had to do to enhance comprehension in this one. Jumbuck? Billabong? Swagman? I should have given up on this poem from the start.  

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patricia said...

Totally had the same epiphany when reading my FAVORITE children's books to my kids! OMG. Some have rather adult content. =)

Valerie Braimah said...

Worst children's book ever is "Meet Smurfette" in which Gargamel makes an evil brown haired and brown eyed smurf who is too pushy and not at all feminine, and no smurfs come to her party. then papa smurf "smurfs" her into a blond, blue-eyed bombshell and she starts to act coy and dumb, and then they all fall in love with her.

seriously. that is really the plot.

Anonymous said...

If Curious George is your safe example the books are bad. The original Curious George book depicts him being kidnapped, smoking a pipe before going to bed, and is generally a dated mess of a story. It's on my list of books not to bring home.

Scott Wright said...

Books sure do leave a huge impact on the little minds and its important to keep them away from bad ones to enable healthy mind growth.

Anonymous said...

I never read The Giving Tree as a child and was horrified when I finally did as an adult. I remember thinking it was a terribly sick book. I'd much rather Curious George smoked if it were between the two :)

Anonymous said...

I believe The Giving Tree to be an amazing story with many lessons. As the tree gives and gives (and loves unselfishly) to the boy who takes and takes, and leaves the tree with nothing but a stump, we can learn the invaluable lesson not to take advantage of those who might provide for us (example: parents, guardians, caretakers). We can learn to be happy with what we are given in life and not drain others of their resources. We can also learn the lesson of unselfish love the tree has for the boy, something parents may relate to, "and the tree was happy" when the boy was around (albeit needing something). The book also illustrates the risk of giving all you have, and that you may be left with nothing. I believe it to be a versatile book with many lessons to choose from.

BoAe Kim said...

I had the same adult reaction to the giving tree. Perhaps the lesson of greed is not blunt enough for some of us. The tree was majorly into martyrdom and the boy seemed blithely oblivious to the fact that he was the cause of the stump. I would have preferred an empowered tree who had the voice and wherewithal to set some good limits for that greedy boy.

Anonymous said...

It seems the tree needs to develop some boundaries, no?

Blaise said...

Just found your blog while googling School Psych books :) I'm an undergrad soon to be applying to School Psychology programs, and I'm so glad I found your blog. Look forward to reading it :)

Nicolle K said...

I read Jack and the Beanstalk to my child the other day, the version we were given involves the giant having a wife who is 'obedient' to him. That version is going in the bin!

Also, as an Australian there is no getting rid of Waltzing Matilda! It is part of our national identity. Jumbucks, billy tea, billabongs, convicts, etc...

Nicolle K said...

Also, forgot to add, Waltzing Matilda is a song, not a poem. Australian school children learn to sing it in kindergarten ; )

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