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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?
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