Brace yourself. You’re probably going to disagree with me.
If the internet is any indication, I am in the minority here. S’ok, I can be pretty minor.
I don’t hate twaddle. I hate the word ‘twaddle’ and all it stands for.
What is twaddle?
Well, if you take a gander around the internet, twaddle is super popular in the Charlotte Mason camp. I’m a fan of a lot of Mason’s philosophies, just not this one.
It basically means books that are trivial or worthless, teach nothing, or are too easy to read. Poor quality. Silly.
It refers to both picture books and chapter books. I have seen it said that books of high adventure that teach nothing are twaddle. I have even read that ‘abridged versions of classic books that simplify the language and meaning’ are twaddle. I’ve read that twaddle is to books as Twinkies are to food. So basically, they taste good but are unsatisfying.
Are you clear yet?
The problem is I like Twinkies. Not all the time, mind you, and I probably haven’t had one in over a decade, but I remember enjoying them very much once upon a time.
Okay, that’s not the real problem. The problem is that, as mothers, fathers, and educators, we start to worry about keeping up with the Masons. I’ve heard the most ridiculous things referred to as twaddle. We all want to sound like we know what we’re talking about, don’t we?
Not too many would dismiss Charles Dickens as twaddle, but I’m sure there are some out there who would think of Stephen King in that way. Even though King’s works are taught as college courses now, he writes horror stories, y’all. And even though he doesn’t always write horror stories, that’s what he got famous on, so all his stuff is twaddle.
That’s sarcasm. None of Stephen King’s books are twaddle.
Another problem is that we all have our own opinions as to what is silly or trivial, so no one can say exactly which books are twaddle. Total transparency here, as much as I respect and admire him (and here’s where you’re probably going to throw things at me), I think the majority of Dr. Seuss’s books are silly and trivial.
But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Sure, you can glean meaning from any one of them but that doesn’t mean I don’t find them garish to look at and sometimes tedious to read.
You might not feel that way. That’s why they aren’t twaddle.
But does it always matter how we, the parents, feel? Sure, we’re here to guide them, but if we tell them certain books aren’t worthwhile and they happen to like those books, aren’t we kinda telling our kids that they themselves aren’t worthwhile?
What’s worthy to me isn’t always going to be worthy to you. We get that as adults and make room for it. Shouldn’t our kids get a say in what’s worthy to them?
That’s my point
Think of it like this: your young child loves a certain TV show (Barney, The Wiggles, and Teletubbies come to mind) that drives you absolutely batshit cray-cray. It’s silly, sure. Some of it is even trivial. Do you forbid your child to watch the show or tune it out while you do housework?
Getting our kids to love reading takes a certain amount of patience and a whole lot of compromise. If your child loves books based on their favorite TV shows or movies, are you going to say, “No, you can’t read that. It doesn’t offer you anything worthwhile”? Because that’s a quick way to make your child hate reading.
If your first grader wants to know the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, are you going to thrust the full novel into his hands or grab an abridged version? Middle has always been fascinated with Greek mythology. When he wanted to know the story of The Odyssey in the second grade, I did not have him read the epic poem. What would he have gotten out of it at that age? I got him a storybook version.
Was that twaddle?
Um, no, because that kid can tell you everything Odysseus went through and all of the villains to this day. So when he actually reads the epic poem in high school? Yeah, he’ll get something out of it.
So I don’t believe in it
I think the word the twaddle is great for making parents feel like they’re better than everybody else. (Is the steam coming out of your ears yet?) I think we toss the word around and talk about it like it’s the worst form of child abuse because it makes us feel smart and like we’re doing something for our kids that other parents aren’t good enough to do.
But when we’re trying to develop lifelong readers who love books, read for pleasure, and learn learn learn forever?
We should let them read what they like. Who cares if every single book teaches something worthwhile? Have you honestly ever read a book and not learned a little something from it?
Kids aren’t stupid, my friends. They’re going to form their own opinions about what’s silly and they’re going to eventually figure out that reading is more fun when their minds are engaged by it.
And sometimes, like us, they’re just going to want to take a break, read something easy and maybe even trivial.
There’s nothing wrong with that.