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Why I Hate Twaddle

Dismissing their favorite books as twaddle and insisting they read something more 'worthwhile' is a quick way to make your kids hate reading

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?

Twaddle: books that are trivial or worthless, teach nothing, or are too easy to read.  Poor quality.  Silly.

The problem

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?

Dismissing their favorite books as twaddle and insisting they read something more 'worthwhile' is a quick way to make your kids hate reading

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.

Love wins,

KT

KT Brison
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KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys.Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.
KT Brison
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About KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.

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22 Comments

  1. I so agree. We need to be careful of definitions. One book may be twaddle to some, but might help another on their reading journey. Thanks for sharing on the #LMMLinkup this week.

    • It really is a judgment call, isn’t it? And I’m so afraid that use of the term will cause unwitting parents to keep books from their kids that the kids will actually enjoy.

  2. I agree, too. Occasionally, one of my kid’s assigned readers didn’t do anything for them. Rather than force them to read it anyway and cause them to hate reading, I let them skip it. There are a lot of good books out there, so I let them move on to the next one.

    • Exactly, Michelle. If they don’t like it or are getting nothing out of it, it’s ok to move on. But to tell them a book doesn’t have value? That’s where I draw the line.

  3. I love this one too!! A homeschool mom recently called it brain candy. Fun books to relax with. I love to read, when I read I usually want something light and fun but sometimes not. Thanks so much for this
    Jen recently posted…Why This Homeschool Planner Is Awesome For A Working MomMy Profile

  4. I agree, and my kids were reading all types of books. They loved silly books before they loved the classics. It was the only way to help one boy want to read on his own. Great post.

  5. YESSSSS! I agree with all of this. I want my children to love reading, so within reason we do not censor books out. I don’t know how many times I have had to defend this decision. The reality is that most of the books I read for myself would be considered “twaddle”, but I am always reading and my children are following in my footsteps. I know that if I didn’t allow my children to read what they wanted to they would not read as much on their own as they do. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Roxanne, thanks for putting your two cents in! I’m so pleased that so many people are agreeing with me. Isn’t it silly that we have to defend allowing our kids to read in any capacity? I want to raise boys who love books and can turn to them for solace AND education, and sometimes that means reading what others call twaddle. Down with twaddle! You have no power over me! LOL

  6. Absolutely agree!!! Thanks so much for being brace enough to say what needed to be said!

  7. Oh, golly jeepers, YES! Totally agree with this! I personally can’t stand Junie B. Jones, but that didn’t stop me from introducing her books to the kids in my classroom each year, because they just eat her up and often were the one thing that got some kids interested in reading! So the latest Disney-themed crap book might very well be crap, but if it gets your kid begging for another trip to the library to load up on books, how is that a bad thing?

    So happy to hear someone else sees the sense in this!

  8. Gentle Joy Photography

    Interesting… thank you for your view on this. 🙂

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