My daughter loves books. I love this fact. She is reading above her level so I’m having to find books for her that aren’t to far above her understanding. Picture books are always good, but she has a thing for chapter books. We love the Magic Treehouse series and the Magic School Bus books. I’ve been encouraged to have her read the Rainbow Magic books, which we now have a few of, but we haven’t actually read them yet.
One series that I had heard a lot of people talk about for kindergarten and first grade girls is the Junie B. Jones series. My mom bought J a few of these for a quarter each at a library book sale, and I’m sorry to say that they are going in the trash. If your girls read these books, I’m sorry, but this is going to be a rant.
So what is wrong with these books? I’ve only read 2 chapters tonight and here are my big issues.
- Word choice – There are some terms that I’d rather my 4 year old didn’t use, especially the word “stupid.” It’s in the title of the first book in the series and just thrown out by “dad” in the book I read tonight. I struggle to not use the word myself around J, I don’t need it thrown around carelessly by a book.
- Grammar – Children learn grammar from listening to adults and from the books the read or listen to. These books make me cringe! Many words are shortened – goin’, ’cause, ‘rolled (for enrolled), etc. Also, because they are supposed to be in Junie B.’s voice there are lines like “‘Cause I never rides on a bus before.”
- Behavior – As with grammar, there are behaviors that we learn by watching others. Kids these days often don’t treat adults with the respect that they should, but that doesn’t mean that it is acceptable. Junie B. has a bit of an attitude problem and her mother doesn’t reprimand her for her behavior. For example, when meeting her teacher for the first time, she hollers at her to include the “B” in her name. Her mom “rolled her eyes and looked at the ceiling” but never admonishes Junie B. for her attitude. Also, since these are in Junie B.’s voice, she thinks things like “I can beat that boy up, I think.”
Apparently, there has been a long history of people either loving or hating this series. In 2007, when J was 5 months old, there was an article in the NY Times that highlighted the problems many people had with the book.
“The spunky kindergartener (first grader in more recent volumes) is prone to troublemaking, often calls people names and isn’t averse to talking back to her teachers. And though she is the narrator of the stories, she struggles with grammar. Her adverbs lack the suffix “ly”; subject and object pronouns give her problems, as do possessives; she usually isn’t able to conjugate irregular past tense verbs; and words like funnest and beautifuller are the mainstays of her vocabulary.”
I don’t believe in talking down to children. I don’t think the behavior shown by Junie B. is funny. I know that I will not be reading J these books again.