Thursday, March 27, 2008


Have I blogged about Twaddle before? Is that a new word for you?

I learned this word a few years ago, while studying Charlotte Mason's teaching style. Even if you don't homeschool, you need to be aware of twaddle.

Twaddle is something like junk food books. Twaddle is writing that is void of much value. It's not inappropriate, it's not offensive, it just doesn't add anything to the reading diet. While junk food is bad for your body, though, twaddle isn't bad--there may occasionally even be a time for it. Twaddle may be more like iceberg lettuce-void of any nutritious content.

I see books in three different categories: Rich, vibrant and worthy of your time and effort, called a Living Book, Twaddle, and Offensive or Inappropriate.

Examples of Twaddle are all those books sold at discount stores that are made from movies. We have some (although I try to purge the house of twaddle, especially for my older readers), I'm thinking of 102 Dalmatians, Barbie Princess books, really just about any modern Disney book. Some people call The Boxcar Children books twaddle, but I think they serve a purpose in helping a young reader gain confidence while adjusting to chapter books. (Although the dialog is too choppy to enjoy reading aloud).

Twaddle is preferable to inappropriate or offensive literature, though. When I think of parents letting preteens and teens read Pet Cemetery or anything from Steven King or the like, thinking it's great that they're at least reading, my heart breaks. I read Pet Cemetery as a teen and the clearest scene I can still recall to this day is a very inappropriate scene for a teen girl to have read-an intimate scene between a husband and a wife. It's not okay to let filth come into our children's minds (or our own) just for the sake of reading! This really is junk food, junk food of the worst kind.

My heart breaks for another reason, too. There is so much great literature out there to be discovered! If kids were introduced to the great, rich stuff, they won't want the junk. Before homeschooling, I didn't know of any great books. My English classes in college hadn't given me any (no, those were more like the offensive ones!) and I missed a lot of good books it seems most people read in high school...I remember Beowulf and Fahrenheit 451 but that's about it. Mrs. Smith sure could teach and I loved Beowulf, by the way. I wish I could sit through her class again today.

As I searched out book lists online (mainly from like minded homeschooling moms) I found some treasures. Many of these can be found in Honey for a Child's Heart, a book of reading lists that is broken down into reading levels and genres. Beware, many of the books listed aren't in shiny glossy covers, they're the outdated looking, yellow, green or orange bla covers you'll find at the library. The ones that haven't been checked out in six years. Or sixteen. Let your family discover these treasures and you'll find yourself adding them to your home library, they are so good, they just become part of the family.

Here's a tiny list of great books-Living Books-our family has enjoyed:

Wolves of Willoughby Chase- A slightly scary book about little girls who have to survive the takeover of their estate by an evil caretaker.

Tucker's Countryside & Cricket in Time's Square (Books illustrated by Garth Williams, great stories about animals with great personalities.

Freedom Train (about Harriot Tubman)

Wind in the Willows & The Reluctant Dragon (about a dragon who's more interested in poetry than being a dragon!).

The Borrowers-this is a great series about the little people who live in your home and take all your little "misplaced" items to use in their zany life (a match becomes a torch, for instance).

Sisters Grimm-we just discovered this great series still in the making. It cleverly weaves together childhood fairytale characters into the mysterious plot of two sisters searching for their parents.

Redwall Series and Castaways of the Flying Dutchman-Ash especially likes this author.

These are for your more independent, elementary aged readers, although The Borrowers, Tucker's Countryside, and Cricket in Time's Square are all fine read alouds for younger ones. Oh, and they aren't just for kids, Shane and I have enjoyed many of these books. He & Ash have shared several series-especially Redwall and Sister's Grimm.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Very Interesting...I didn't know what Twaddle was, but It makes so much sense. I agree, Ms. Smith was an outstanding teacher, and I loved her class and would love to sit through it again with you. I remember in 8th grade, reading Johnny Tremain..Mrs. Moss was the teacher and it was about a Silversmith during the Revolutionary War. I liked this book and think it could be listed along with the "Good Ones"