Oh gosh! I forgot to grow up
Earlier this week, S. Weller, an Amazon Kindle community member, asked an interesting question in
“Do you ever read kids’ books?”
My answer is, “of course”!
A lot of what I read would be considered kids’ books by somebody. The Oz books? Certainly. Tarzan stories? Sure. Fairy tales? Check.
I’m not the only one. Geeks like me have always been proudly unconcerned about what other people thought about the entertainment we enjoyed. We watch cartoons, read comic books, collect toys.
Large amounts of science fiction and fantasy have been classified as children’s books…sometimes, for no particular reason I can discern. It’s as if imagination itself is considered the purview of the young only. Kids are encouraged to imagine things…adults are told not to be “silly”.
Walter Mitty was a daydreamer…and that’s considered an insult.
Now, the situation has changed somewhat. This may be due in some part to the almost neotonic condition of some of the New Millenial generation. However, it may also be economics. The most successful movies and books may involve elements of fantasy…even though that fantasy might be a dark one.
What causes a book to be defined as a “children’s book”?
Well, the easy answer nowadays is…the publisher. They typically choose the classifications. That’s why you’ll see some pretty grown-up things defined as a “childen’s chapter book” at Amazon. If they think that will help the sales, great…the same book may be in several categories, even apparently contradictory ones for that reason.
Outside of that, it seems like anything with a child as a main character is considered a children’s book…as if adults couldn’t possibly be interested in what a child does and thinks.
Well, I’m going to back off that (don’t you love it when I argue with myself in the blog?)
Stephen King books, and horror books generally, don’t follow that rule. I don’t think anybody classifies Carrie or The Exorcist as a children’s book.
Edgar Sawtelle? Not seen as a children’s book…or a horror book.
However, what about Huckleberry Finn? Is that really a kids’ book? That’s how it was seen when it was released.
I could say that supposed children’s books from the 19th century are often written at a much higher level than some of the books we see today intended for adults.
Have you actually read Peter Pan? How about The Water-Babies? Even Winnie the Pooh…the language is sophisticated, the concepts can be deep.
Compare them to a lot of the books out there: are they really intended for “simpler” minds, which seems to be the implication?
In the Amazon Kindle community thread I mentioned earlier, the term “book snobs” was used.
If you knew somebody read children’s books (or watched SpongeBob SquarePants), would you look down on them? Should you?
Even more interesting…do we classify books in order to classify their readers?
I have to say, it’s something a lot of people like about EBRs (E-Book Readers). Other people can’t tell what you are reading. :) Sure, that might be because they don’t want you to be able to tell that they are reading something titillating, or politically controversial…but they may also not want you to know that a grown person is reading Nancy Drew, or The Hardy Boys…or The Snarkout Boys, for that matter. Oh, the latter Daniel Pinkwater book isn’t available…but give it time.
Am I saying we should do away with the classification of books as being children’s books?
Not at all.
It is helpful for those looking for books for kids.
Books already may be classified by grade level or reading level.
Those are good guidelines, although you certainly don’t need to follow them.
It was an interesting problem when my offspring was little. There quickly came a point where books with ten words a page just weren’t interesting enough: zip, done.
Some chapterbooks were great, but somebody at school provided a Goosebumps book.
Too scary…way too scary.
Other books just talked about things that weren’t interesting to, say, a six year old.
Comprehension of the words wasn’t a big problem…with onboard dictionaries and encyclopedia’s, it will be even less so.
Comprehension of the concepts, though? That’s another matter entirely.
I wonder…is that how those grade levels are assigned? Do they just use algorithmical analysis…length of words, syllables, that kind of thing? Or does somebody actually read them? Who is it?
It appears that the main tool used is the Developmental Reading Assessment. That’s fairly new. I also found a study on the effectiveness of it:
which found that there was significant agreement on the efficacy of the levels.
So, back to the main question…
Are you “childish” if you read kids’ books?
I’d say no. I’m definitely not a book snob. I’ll read romances, science fiction, mysteries, mainstream, faith-based, “heretical”, and so on.
There are things I don’t generally don’t like. I tend not to like books with generally negative tones. Sorry…I like The Hobbit better than Lord of the Rings. :) I can read books with profanity, violence, and sexual situations…but I don’t particularly seek those out.
My favorite books probably have somewhat complicated philosophical concepts, sophisticated vocabulary…but could be read by or to kids.
We had some complications at work. We set up a lending library for books…people brought them in, borrowed them, and so on. However, we tried to make it so those books were “safe for work”. After all, if the company provides you with something that is “inappropriate”, you might have a Human Resources complaint.
Ask people to judge that for themselves, and you may not get what fits your guidelines.
So, what do you think? Is it “wrong” for adults to read Captain Underpants? If you were meeting a blind date and that person was reading Tom Swift when you walked up, would you want to turn around and leave?
Feel free to let me know.
Tip of the day: the School Library Journal has a searchable website and lists grade levels in its reviews.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.