Guest Blog: Bad Behavior from Books?

By guest blogger Jennifer Warren

Two years ago, I began working at a preschool to pay the bills while I was a full time graduate student in library and information sciences. However, upon graduation I decided to continue working part-time at a preschool while also working at Longview Public Library. I love both of my jobs, but recently I saw my two worlds collide in an unexpected way. As I settled into my new classroom working with after school students, ages five to ten, I wanted to promote reading as much as possible. I even asked the students to help create a library in the classroom during our Christmas break. Naturally, I inquired about the books they liked to read and nearly every one of them begged me to buy the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. At first I thought, “Why not?” At least they will be reading and not burying their faces in video games. So, I asked the Assistant Director of the preschool how she felt about buying the books and she instantly nixed the purchase: “These books are full of toilet humor,” she said.

Honestly, I thought she was over reacting. I was determined to prove her wrong and buy the books for my kids, so, I asked one of the students to let me borrow one of their Wimpy Kid books. After the first 30 pages I realized the Assistant Director was right. What’s more, I already had to talk to one of my students for the exact same inappropriate behavior portrayed in these books. I cringed at the thought of the whole class reenacting the characters’ behavior of lying, stealing and more, but would this behavior be a direct result from the books the children were reading?

Julia Eccleschare, author of the article “Can Books Teach Children to Behave Badly?” responds to a concerned parent with similar experiences as she reads David Shannon’s No, David! to her son. After reading the book, she noticed her son thought the naughty things David did was “a permissible kind of behavior.” We all agree on the importance of reading to our children and having them read as well, but can books teach and encourage children to engage in bad or unhealthy behavior?

My job as a librarian is to encourage children of all ages to read and learn through appropriate literature. However, what is the price we pay if what they are reading incites bullying, disrespect or lying? As Eccleschare explains, it’s up to us, the teachers, librarians, and parents to help our children look at bad behavior in books objectively, so that when faced with similar real-life situations, they can make the right choices.

Jennifer Anne Warren has been working alongside children in the preschool setting since 2011. She received a BA in both English and History from the University of North Florida and an MLS from SUNY Buffalo. During her time at SUNY Buffalo, Jennifer worked on two practicums including one with WBNY’s radio station cataloging their music collection and the second researching and completing statistical analysis of NTIS’s database.


One Response to Guest Blog: Bad Behavior from Books?

  1. Emily March 7, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    You hit the nail on the head with that last sentence: these books are a perfect platform for opening the discussion about right and wrong behavior. My mom read this series to my brother as a bedtime story (when he was about 7 or 8), and she’d finish each chapter with a “lesson reminder” about the importance of honesty, being kind to others, etc.

    Another point to consider is that kids WANT to read these books–and how often can we say THAT these days? For my brother, who loved toilet humor and hated reading at age 8, this series was the gateway into a newfound love of reading. Once he finished the Wimpy Kid series, he sought out other funny, lighthearted books and read them voraciously. Sure, it’s not Charles Dickens or Shakespeare, but if kids are being exposed to grammar, sentence structure, syntax, dialogue, and a general understanding of the written word, I’m all for it–even if it means we have to chime in every now and again to gently remind them that certain behaviors – like cheating on a geography test, for example – are frowned upon in the real world.

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