Reading Aloud with my Oldest: Twaddle

I discovered this word while listening to family-centered podcasts. May I bother you to repeat once more how much I love podcasts? Love, love, love them. Ok, I’m done on the subject (for now).

I didn’t even know what twaddle meant, and judging only by the sound it made me think of a duck. But the disapproving tone of the conversation and the context made it clear enough that it was something… bad. The context was a conversation about libraries and how to steer the kids towards the good books and avoid the twaddle. Although I’m sure that the (American, Christian, homeschooling) podcasters and I (European, non-Christian, full-time working mother) wouldn’t quite share the definition of what is a good book, I totally relate to their concern.

Before my older son got to school, I felt that twaddle was rather easy to control: it came as Disney spinoff cardboard books or dumb ultra-gendered books with cars. They seemed rather harmless and we could always offer an alternative. If Baby Smithereens insisted we would give in and that would take 5 minutes at most.

But as my kid grew up, he became a bit more opinionated, and also more influenced by the marketing sirens, although we don’t have a tv connexion in order to avoid the nastiest commercials.

Pikachu via Wikipedia

Enter Pokemon. If you have a vague notion of it, you’d think Pikachu is a kind of cute cuddly toy. Big mistake! I am being surrounded by obsessed 6-7 years old (and you might remember that obsession takes a whole new meaning at this age), and  Pokemon’s merchandising has branched out into probably every daily life activity, including books!

I feel lucky because French libraries don’t stock twaddle in general, and Pokemon in particular, acting as a guardian with superpowers: if it doesn’t exist, you can’t have it. But…

But supermarkets’ books aisles have it, and bookshops have it… One day or the next I was doomed to give in. I refused flat-out to pay good money for having twaddle in my home. I have principles! So much to my shame, I got on to Bookmooch to exchange one for free.

Perhaps there was a huge relief sigh at the other end of the barter when twaddle left the home of the Bookmooch giver.

I refused flat-out to read twaddle aloud. I have principles! Now you’re a big boy, you’re 6 3/4, you can read alone!

Unfortunately the book was in English, sigh, I gave in (parenting is about compromises, isn’t it?) because having a book and not being able to read it is probably the worst frustration ever.

I swear I didn’t understand what I was reading and translating. Even Ellroy’s Perfidia has a clarity that a Pokemon book hasn’t. My son, next to me, was glued to the words that came out of my mouth. I sort of understood the Greek Pythia who delivered oracles without being aware of what she’d say.

I quit after Chapter 3. There’s a limit to my patience. Even my son said it was better to catch episodes on Youtube. He later got another book in French via grandparents (ah, twaddle, if you chase it out the door, it will come back through the window), but he got the lesson: he’s reading it all by himself.

That policy suits me fine. I want him to discover great books, and I plan to read aloud as long as he’s interested (and some more?) but I won’t control every single book that goes through his hands.

What do you think? Am I too passive and fatalist about twaddle?


2 thoughts on “Reading Aloud with my Oldest: Twaddle

  1. Did you hear about so many girls dressing up as Elsa from ‘Frozen’ for World Book Day or boys as Darth Vader – and teachers are trying to point out that these were not books? Twaddle is taking over, I’m afraid. Perhaps you just have to go along with it, but make sure that your son also has some other choices, some really good books available. I think mine quickly went ‘off’ the Star Wars and other such twaddle because there were no good ‘stories’ there (although they do use Minecraft books now – but that’s more like games manuals to help them play, rather than for reading pleasure).

  2. Nah, I think just like adults need brainless fluff now and then so do kids. He’s smart enough to know the different and if the book fuels his imagination that’s what really matters.

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