I've been working on a list of books for early to middle skill chapter book readers. It's a little longer than I thought it would be and I imagine I'll be flipping back and forth to the Exodus website looking up authors and such and hopefully I'll be able to get it done soon. But because of a conversation I had recently with another mother about reading material, I thought I'd also post about some negatives with some books. I am pretty picky about what I give my kids to read. Early on I read the Barth family's book _Child Training and the Homeschool_ and a major point I got out of that was that just as I was careful about the friends my children played with I needed to be careful of the "companions" they spent time with in books. That made a lot of sense to me because I was a big reader as a child and I remember characters from books who were as real to me as real life. So I tried to choose books whose characters reflected the type of traits I would want to see in my children's lives.
So there are some books that though they are generally accepted even by the homeschool community I've decided to bypass.
One theme I see over and over in a lot of children's books is the idea that the children have to keep a secret for some reason from their parents. For example in _The Indian in the Cupboard_ books. The children in those books don't trust the adults with a major event in their lives and they are left on their own to make all the decisions. The children think they are enlightened with some sort of sensitivity that the adults cannot possess. It is a shame because the story line otherwise would be engaging, but with the secrecy being a major theme I cannot allow them.
Another theme is when the child is disobedient but the outcome is somehow blessed. When S. was little she started reading the Mandy Mysteries, but after a while we noticed that she disobeyed quite a lot, but somehow it all came "right in the end." This too gives the impression to children that somehow they have the power to make their own decisions and don't really need the counsel of the adults in their lives. Mandy is also very independent which is a character trait the world likes to see in girls but isn't one I want in my daughters.
Another is when the children are just plain bratty. I like some of Beverly Cleary's books. Usually Ellen Tibbets is the first chapter book I hand my daughters. But I don't care for Ramona because she is kind of a brat. And Ralph in Ralph and the Motorcycle is awful to his brothers and sisters. I just don't feel like my children need that type of example. Also, Elsie Dinsmore. I'm sorry but that girl is a crybaby. She has this "poor suffering thing" persona that especially a couple of my girls just don't need to emulate because they can be prone to "tragic countenances" themselves.
I also avoid what I call "garbage books". They are the ones that neither the writing style nor the information are very important and reading them is something akin to watching television or something. These would be like _The Baby sitter's Club_ _American Girl Books_ _Saddle Club_, stuff like that. I just fell like the vocabulary is to controlled, the writing styles are to shallow and the story lines aren't all that creative and they are a waste of time. Also I'm afraid if they get into the habit of reading these types of books they will be content with that and not try for anything more challenging.
Sometimes in a book there may be a little of one of these things, but since it isn't a major portion of the book we can just talk about it and move on. Caddie Woodlawn does have the one chapter where she rides off in secret to talk to the Indians, but since it isn't the major theme of the book I feel like we can maneuver it.
So these are some of the things I try to avoid. Sometimes I have to backtrack or get rid of some things and it isn't a tragedy if one of these gets read, but I do try to talk about the problems they have, and especially my older ones are getting pretty good at identifying these themes as well. So sometimes I can have them screen for the younger ones if I haven't read something.