You might state the obvious, well they are “children’s books”! So how can books written for children be termed unnecessarily childish? after all childish means appropriate for children. But when adults use the term childish, we think inappropriate or immature. Our everyday use of the word childish is something said or done that does not fit what is expected for a certain age or status. Here I have chosen to use childish as unfit and inappropriate for children.
As you may have noticed in the opening question, I preceded the word childish by the word unnecessarily. I am proposing to say that there is something wrong about some children’s books and there is no real justification for wrongly creating them. This is not some kind of overzealous critique or condemnation of these books. It is more my observations and assessments of how books meet or fail to meet the needs of children. There appears to be overwhelming evidence that children can learn things faster than we sometime anticipate e.g., climbing out of their cribs when we leave their room and climbing back into it and playing sleep before we return.
The wrongs that I see are both childish and unnecessary. Childish in the sense that they do not match or exceed the demands of the children. In fact, these types of books grossly underestimate the capacities of young children. Oftentimes these books or stories are void of a theme or plot which may in some case disqualify them as books or stories. Some may also fall horribly short of broadening the children’s vocabulary or image identification. Many books of this nature may use the same words and or images repetitiously throughout the entire story. For the most part the main characters are void of accompanying characters and even void of background settings. These book’s text and illustrations oversimplified to the point that parents reading them appear not to be communicating with another human being. In essence the books are dumbed down to the point that they may be too simple to stimulate the auditory, visual, and other senses of the children. If this is the case, then these books offer little hope for the development of the children’s cognitive functions.
Now to the unnecessary aspect of these children’s books. Age appropriate is a concept used with children’s books and other things we want to deny or restrict to certain age groups. Central to this concept is the thought that at certain ages children can only perform at a certain level. Moreover, they should not even be exposed to information on the next level because it will be of no consequence to them. Many authors and publishers deliberately produce books that adhere to these age-appropriate guidelines because their major clients,’ distributors, schools, and libraries, recommend that they do so. Schools may recommend these age-appropriate standards because they desire to limit the individual differences between classmates in the same class or grade. They do this despite the empirical evidence they gather each time they grade their classes examinations. Most children can perform at levels far beyond their designated age or grade level. This truth is easily observed in near every class at every grade level. In formal education classes age-appropriate books may be generally good for the class as a whole. But parents do not have to restrict the learning abilities of their own children, and most would opt not to do so in the materials that they select and purchase.
Children are never not learning, and their children’s book should never assume that they are not ready to learn more. From the time children are born they immediately display an instinctive desire to learn new things. They are always developing or advancing forward, and they do not require isolated images and repetitive text. Children need exposure to new and more complex reading materials. There are no good reasons to oversimplify text or images in children’s books for the sake of children. Any decision or efforts to water down children’s books only prevents or limits their abilities to advance children’s intellectual development. Written by Mister Wilson-Cory The Caterpillar Children’s Books…