Recently in my homeschooling research, I came across a word I’m surprised I’d never been introduced to before.
At first, I thought it was a typo, then I thought it might be slang. Nope, the word has been around for over a hundred years and basically means poor quality reading material. In more descriptive terms I found some dictionaries describe it as “foolish or trivial” writing. This is a word found frequently in Charlotte Mason style education.
Growing up in the world of books I’ve read a lot of fantastic books and a lot of drivel. Not once did I encounter the word twaddle to describe anything I read. My teachers didn’t utter it, my mother, the librarian, never mentioned it, even my English major book loving roommates in college didn’t speak of it.
I might add those English major, book loving roommates loved their smutty romance novels just as much as the classics, just in a different way. I’ll discuss that observation in more detail a bit later.
Problems with Twaddle
As a home educator, I think it is important to explore the idea of quality materials in our curriculum. There’s nothing wrong with wanting our kids to be exposed to the right stuff on their educational journey.
There are problems with twaddle, one of the biggest for me is who determines what twaddle is? How do you know if something is twaddle? Is it a matter of opinion?
I’ll let you figure out what you consider quality books and what you consider twaddle because I’m not here to create a definition.
Some common themes I’ve found in what other people consider twaddle are:
Shallow plot lines.
Hero characters with extremely poor behavior.
Lacks thought-provoking qualities.
Insulting to a child’s intelligence.
Waste of time to read, no value.
Predictable, no variety.
Just reading this list makes me think, “yuck, I wouldn’t want my kids reading that! I wouldn’t even want to read that!”
The truth is, I do read twaddle, based on these observations. I read twaddle to my kids, and my kids read twaddle.
Guess what? It hasn’t affected their intelligence, creativity, morals, behavior, or problem-solving skills.
Honestly, I don’t have a problem with twaddle. I do agree there are varying degrees of quality in books. I don’t agree that twaddle is as detrimental to education as a lot of other people make it out to be.
My oldest started off as a reluctant reader. She struggled to learn blended sounds and still has challenges with sounding out words. Reading any book, sentence, or even just a word was extremely stressful for her. She wanted to learn to read, she asked to be taught, but there was just something in the way of her grasping the skill.
We tried many different approaches to reading education, but none of it worked for her. While she wanted to read so badly, her frustration and challenges caused her to be a reluctant reader.
When we offered her books to practice reading, she would refuse. When she gathered up the courage to read an easy book she picked out, she would struggle with a page and refuse to go on.
One day, it just clicked with her. She went from struggling to read a 1 or 2 reader book to reading an entire Junie B. Jones book in a matter of a few days.
She’s tried to read something with more substance within her level, Sarah Plain and Tall, which was recommended by our local librarian based on her interests. But she found it too difficult. The twaddle, as some people would call it, is what helped build her confidence to read.
There is no argument from me that classic books and quality literature are extremely important, however, in some cases, twaddle has its place too. Sometimes kids need something with a little less depth to help them build the confidence to branch into something that will better build their vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Reading is fun. I started reading when I was around four years old and never stopped. It’s not uncommon for me to have several books going at once, including classic books, nonfiction, must-read literature, and twaddle.
Sometimes I’m not in the mood for something that requires thought. It’s nice to just let my mind wander with a story, even if it lacks in substance, just to enjoy the story. This is the mindset my college roommates had while reading their smutty romance novels.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I think it’s safe to say if adults can read books that lack in substance just because we feel like it, then kids can too.
Sometimes my brain is heavy from everything that happened through the day and I just want something light to give my head a chance to clear out and recover.
This isn’t to say that I’ll never read anything of quality ever again, or that I won’t read quality books for fun, I do. Right now my kids aren’t quite to the place where they are ready to read a more quality book to themselves, but they love to listen to me read those books out loud.
Believe it or not, twaddle has it’s educational benefits too. I tend to veer away from sheltering my kids from things and instead embrace that this is how the world is. Instead of steering my kids away from these things we learn about them instead.
With that said, I don’t intentionally thrust my children into bad situations or expose them to inappropriate materials, but if they happen to run into it we talk about it at an age appropriate level to make it a learning experience rather than trying to hide it from them.
Educational Benefits of Twaddle
Identifying incorrect grammar and how to fix it.
Accepting others even if they don’t speak the same way you do.
Explore how to give a story more depth.
Discussions about behavior. Explaining why people may act the way they do without defending the behavior. Talk about how the character could have done things differently.
Inspire kids to write their own stories, or come up with their own changes to the story.
Compare/contrast story elements to higher quality books.
Encourages critical thinking by asking kids to identify qualities that make a book worthwhile or a waste of time.
Helps kids identify the reason they are reading a book. Is it for educational purposes? Because they enjoy it? To learn something specific?
If you’re struggling to find quality books for either you or the kids to read, I have a few ideas to help you find them. Where to find quality books.