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Monday, July 4, 2011

Twaddle Control

Do you have a problem with junk reading in your home? Do your kids just seem to gravitate toward the fluff, when you'd rather they read the healthy stuff?  How durst we keep the twaddle under control?

First of all, what is twaddle? For those of us familiar with Charlotte Mason, twaddle is a familiar term, and is basically the opposite of a living book. For those who've yet to spend time with her these might be still new or foreign ideas.
[Noun] silly, trivial, or pretentious talk or writing
[Verb] [-dling, -dled] to talk or write in a silly or pretentious way [earlier twattle]
~ definition courtesy of Twaddlefree Bookstore

I think of twaddle as junk food in the form of books.
"That children like feeble and tedious...story books, does not at all prove that these are wholesome food; they like lollipops but cannot live upon them."
Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, p. 117

image courtesy of MissCGlass

I cannot think of a better tactic, whether you have small children or avid readers than to maintain control from the start by screening what comes into your home. After all, you buy the groceries don't you? But what if a book shows up from a well-meaning friend or family member? When they're small, this can be pretty simple. In general, mine have hardly noticed when they've gotten a twaddly book as a gift and it "accidentally" is hidden immediately under or inside the couch (unless of course they've somehow grown an unruly fetish for Thomas the Train and it happens to be a book about him...  I'm afraid you may be in it for the long haul). Before they have an opportunity to ask for it, I offer some beautiful alternative, hopefully they never even miss it! :) If yours do insist, or you have grandparents who will ask, what I've done is, tell them we'll read it once now and then we'll trade it in for another book (my selection). Yay for used book stores and garage sales!!  :)

For older children, discuss the reasons you put limits on what they read. This will usually include moral as well as quality issues. Talk to them about what makes a good book... Make sure to have a wide variety of options for them, and then let them choose which books they want to read first. We use the AmblesideOnline book lists which include the yearly curriculum reads as well as a list of "Free Reading" (also required by the end of the year, but they decide priority and pace based on preference). You might formulate your own "approved book reading list" for your older child from the lower AO years booklists that your child may have missed as well as from a book like All Through the Ages or Honey for a Child's Heart. Then let them choose which books sound most interesting to them.   

image courtesy of ilco

At the library, our rule for choosing books was: the books you may look at at the library are not necessarily those that we bring home with us. When my kids were smaller, I allowed them to peruse the children's section freely and gather a stack of books, which I always reserved the right to screen. I would make sure there was nothing offensive, then from what they chose, I would separate one or two that were eligible to take home. I would tell them that they could read the other books while we were in the library, but that those books would stay there. I usually had prepared a list of books that I'd check out to make sure the basket was FULL of a good variety to bring home with us. Depending on the ages of my children, my choices would usually include some picture books with beautiful illustrations to please the senses, several read alouds with beautiful use of language and an easy reader or two with interesting ideas.

If you find yourself with a house already full of junk book addicts, it may be a bit more difficult. I would recommend working on this in stages. Usually I've had limited space for books, so I buy a bunch of good books at garage sales or thrift stores and subtly weed out the undesirables to make room for the new acquisitions. If there are some twaddly favorites, I'd just wait. Let them stay on the shelf for awhile. They're not hurting anyone there. Chances are if we consistently present them with a banquet of a wide variety of enticing foods, they'll generally be satisfied with the material that tends to taste better, nourish more and last longer. If they eat a little junk food now and then, it's not really going to hurt, but it's best to subtly steer them by making suggestions toward the material that will tend to nourish their hearts and minds.

Oh and finally, set a good example. Read good books. Choose quality material for yourself based on classic literature or personal recommendation. Discuss the books you read with your children when possible and talk about what you liked about them and why they're good or why they weren't. And obviously, read good books to your children... but I guess that pretty much goes without saying ;) 

Useful Links for choosing good books:

AmblesideOnline offers booklists for every year. I LOVE the selections! Do you Amble? If not, why not try it? AmblesideOnline is a great way to homeschool, and it's all right there online!! Read a definition of what makes a living book here.

All Through the Ages is an AMAZING resource! It's basically a book of great books to read at all different levels based on the time period. Each section includes a timeline, suggestions of resources for all ages, and then suggestions for the different reading levels, grades 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. The genres include selections of books based on specific events, culture, biography, literature from teh time period, and historical fiction. I love this book!

I personally haven't had great success yet with Simply Charlotte Mason's bookfinder, but I know others have, so give it a try, maybe you'll have better luck than I.

What do you do to control twaddle? Is it important to you?


Joyfulmum said...

I have an only child so controlling twaddle is easy for me:) I prefer to buy good books for her to read than borrow twaddle from the library so our trips to the library are rare! but we own stacks of good books for her to read at home, this has worked for us:)

amy in peru said...

For awhile, I used to similarly avoid the library, it's just that the library is SUCH a cool place... full of books! oh, and used books stores! glorious! :) there are so many neat treasures... I cannot resist. So, the parameters mentioned above are what have made it feasible for us. Also, I know some people prefer to borrow rather than buy tons of books for economic reasons. :)
But definitely, if one can afford it, I almost think one cannot have too many good books! :)

Mel said...

Totally agree - Used book stores are GLORIOUS! :) AS for twaddle, well I guess over the years we've made a determined effort to buy the classics. I also read a lot of lists like those by Sonlight and Ambleside Online, as well as going by recommendations in 'Honey For a Child's Heart'. Generally vintage books are a hit around here and mostly prove to be well written and wholesome. Love a good book! x

Pam... said...

I love your sense of humor Amy! The curly fry representing twaddle! How funny is that? I will never look at those fries again without thinking "avoid at all costs! Twaddle!"

At times I have let my guard down also. The kids get to be a certain age and gravitate toward the silly stories with few words and computer generated,ridiculous art. Or they are drawn to the latest fad series that the peers are reading.

I like your ideas for reading some books at the library only, but bringing home the 'healthy groceries". Awesome analogy you had there btw. Older ones occasionally dig into these also. Maybe moms do too? I think if we have a motto going in to the library "living books only, kids", there would be a unified approach to meet the goal.

Now excuse me, I have a fry and a large Pepsi that I need to finish for breakfast. (Not!)Lol!

Phyllis said...

Good to have you back, inspiring us. Do you think you will be doing your snapshot summaries any time soon? I miss them (you, your family.)

Amy said...

I am with you as far as being careful what the kids are reading. We were recently given a whole bunch of Sonlight books which was an amazing find (being here in S.A.) and our local MK library is pretty good.
I recently took note of Ambleside and we are planning on using many of the online books from year 3.5 this year. I am excited about it and not sure why I never gave it a real look before.
Enjoy your summer reading!
Amy @ Missional Mama

Melissa said...

I LOVE All Through the Ages...wonderful resource!

There's also a terrific Early Years booklist from SCM here:

amy in peru said...

Yes! Curly fries are the epitome of junk food aren't they?! hilarious. Even if they are good! ;)

"I think if we have a motto going in to the library "living books only, kids", there would be a unified approach to meet the goal."

I think that's just it, and I was thinking it as I was writing the post, when we're teaching them by example, explaining why we choose certain books, they pick up on all that! It's not to say they won't still gravitate towards the junk... it's easier!

Oh wow! What a HUGE blessing to have a MK library!! Seriously! And Sonlight hand-me-downs?! You have been mightily BLESSED girl!

I do hope to get back to the snapshot summaries at a minimum! We've just been SO busy!!

I was recently at a conference where it became evident that CM homeschool mothers almost all have the same disease... an addiction really, to good books! ;)

Nadene said...

I love it that my children can easily tell if the book is a great book or twaddle. I call these "candyfloss" books, they look yummy, taste sweet, but disappear into a syrupy blob.
My kids can read some gift/twaddle books, but we have so many great living books to read, that they don't have time for the junk.
I recently went through our book shelves checking books to give away and found so many books were classics. I'll keep these forever and pass them on to grandchildren one day! Oh well, just have to buy more shelves! Isn't that the classic symptom of CM homes?

Richele said...

Why, hello there. Thank you for introducing me to "All Through the Ages."

Missceegee has a link to her book lists on the SCM forum that I love. I have a print out of various book lists that stays in our library bag.

Unknown said...

So important. I love junk food every now and then. But a real meal is my preference. I'm glad to see this same taste in books for Sprite.

Unknown said...

We love Ambleside book lists and also Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook. Eventually, don't you think the children are great twaddle-detectors themselves? :-)

Thank you for your recommendations and insight!

Denise said...

HI:) New Follower here. Found your amzing blog through some of the AO/CM yahoo groups. We are still rather new to all of it. Wonderful post--helps make this particular terminology a little more understandable! Can't wait to go stalk....umm.. linger around your site.{{grins}}
Have a blessed Sunday!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like almost exactly what we do, from hiding b-day presents, to screen library books, to the junk food analogy--I've used that one with our children explaining why we chose not to bring some books home or other things. Great post!

Joy in Nepal

Autismland Penny said...

These are great suggestions. I have found that after awhile, my kids don't want to read the junk and recognize it on their own so they naturally gravitate toward the good stuff. I love the free reading idea from AO. I'll have to use it this year.

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