If you consider yourself a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, you’re probably well acquainted with the concept of twaddle.
Even if you aren’t, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of it.
If not, twaddle is a book or other literature that doesn’t mean certain standards of quality. Specifically, it’s ‘dumbed down’ books that are simpler than necessary, lack a decent storyline or plot, and just fall short of decent literature.
Her opinion is that kids shouldn’t be allowed twaddle in literature at all.
The truth about twaddle is that it can be a gateway to better literature.
I’m sure we’ve all encountered the cruddy books that always seem to feature a favorite character. They get so excited over the Mickey Mouse or Minecraft book even though the book itself is no good.
It’s a good marketing technique.
Not such a great technique for raising great readers.
Or is it?
Not all kids are naturally drawn to reading. There is not a one-size-fits-all method for ensuring your child will love reading and grow up to be a reader.
You can surround them with books, read to them constantly, read to yourself constantly, and do all the “right” things and they still might not enjoy reading.
Kids, like adults, are all different.
Allowing kids to read twaddle might be one step in the right direction for raising a reader.
The truth about twaddle is that there are benefits to allowing kids to read twaddle
- It’s a gateway. The child who never wanted to read before might unlock the secret to loving reading because of twaddle.
- More time spent together. My youngest child wasn’t a big fan of reading until about 5 years old, maybe even later. He was a take it or leave it kind of kid. But if he found a book that included a robot, we were golden. He would sit with me all day and read those books over and over.
- Get’s them excited. I’m the girl in the bookstore failing to contain my excitement at seeing all the books. Not all kids get that excited. But put some of these character-based twaddle books out and you might just get a kid who thinks the bookstore is the most amazing place ever.
- Boosts confidence. Just because your child can read a college grade level when they’re two doesn’t mean they must. Sometimes it’s good to boost their confidence by letting them read a ‘too easy’ book. My oldest read Captain Underpants when he was 11. The reading level was much below him. But who cares? He was reading and loving reading.
- They’re fun. Have you ever tried to read a classic book and quickly shelved it? Sometimes the classics are just boring. Great literature doesn’t always mean books you’ll enjoy. But twaddle, twaddle can be fun. And don’t we want our kids to have fun while reading?
Should you have rules about twaddle at all?
Rules? No. I don’t believe any set of rules could fully account for the complexities of kids, personalities, reading styles, and twaddle.
Instead, I believe in best practices.
Do I want my kids reading twaddle or do I want them reading great literature? Given the choice, great literature. Hands down the answer is always great literature. There is more room to grow with a truly great book.
But how do we get our kids to want great literature?
I don’t know the answer for you and your kids. I can only share my tips and what has worked for us.
- Leave great books out. If they are resistant to reading books you’ve picked, leave out great books that are especially colorful or eye-catching.
- Enact the two chapter rule. When Baloo was younger he was really resistant to new books. He was okay with continuing a new series but he never wanted to meet new characters or start new books. So we started the two chapter rule. I would pick out a book and ask him to give it two chapters. I think in the past 7 years we’ve only given up on one book with this method.
Now, at 12, he has no problem trying any new book. He’s a very adventurous reader.
- Take turns. Logi-Bear wanted me to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid to him. Those are not my favorite books (not at all) but he didn’t want to read anything else. He would have preferred to just not read at all instead of picking a different book. So I agreed to trade-off. We would read a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book and then a book of my choice. It didn’t take long for him to realize other books are enjoyable as well.
And I kind of learned to enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid as well. They’re not my favorite but the author does have a talent for humor.
- Audiobooks. Audiobooks in the car, during art time, breakfast, whenever. They might not even realize they’re listening until suddenly ‘Wait, what happens next??”
- Entice them with Book and a Movie. There are some amazing books that have been turned into movies. Offer to read the book and then enjoy the movie together. Or if necessary, watch the movie and then read the book. Whatever gets them reading!
- Read yourself. As a kid, I was a voracious reader. As an adult, I’m too busy. Except I’m not really too busy I just fill my days with other things. When I decided to make a reading a priority in my life, it got done. And the more my kids see me reading, the more they want to find a book and cuddle up near me to read by themselves.
- Visit the library and check out the books. Check out the books they want – even if you think it’s not a great fit. Obviously, draw the line at inappropriate books (we don’t get romances for my young kids) but don’t discourage a book because you don’t like the cover, the title, the topic, etc.
When Logi-Bear was 5 he wanted only books with cats. But the only book he could find was in the adult section. I didn’t say no. We checked it out and read it. He got bored about 1/4 of the way in because it wasn’t for him. But he did agree to me helping him find a kids book. And he knows that I’m not going to say no to a book just because.
- Let them read ‘too young’ books. If your kid is reading at a 5th-grade level but wants to read a 1st-grade level book – let them! It’s reading and they might enjoy the book! Who cares if it’s not the most challenging book they could read? I still like to read YA books even though I’m an adult. They’re often more fun to read, a bit lighter in topic, and I can get through them faster.
Royal really enjoys the Zoey and Sassafras books. I’m not going to tell him he cannot read them simply because he’s older than the target audience.
“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.”
In the end, I think we should just let our kids read what they want to read. Let them grow into readers and encourage them to read.
But don’t worry so much about evaluating how ‘twaddley’ their books are or the twaddle level of their choices. Just let them be so they will love reading. The rest will come on it’s own.