The explosion of the Charlotte Mason phenomenon in homeschooling brought about the widespread use of the word “twaddle” when referring to less-than-desirable literature for children. There was (and continues to be) much discussion about what Charlotte Mason meant when she wrote about twaddle and how that translates into reading and homeschooling today.
The campaign against twaddle has been so continual and effective that some parents now live in mortal fear of ruining their child for life if they aren’t careful to keep things “twaddle free” in their home. Why? Because their child might develop a taste for books that cheapen their very existence. (Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.)
What Is Twaddle?
One of the things that’s fascinating about the term “twaddle” is that it’s challenging to get someone to explain exactly what it is and which books are “acceptable” and which ones aren’t. For an example, see the many comments on Simply Charlotte Mason’s post What is Twaddle?
Whichever definition people would choose, I’m fairly confident that most people who eschew twaddle would agree that the proliferation of comic books and graphic novels is a travesty for children. Graphic novels are the epitome of twaddle in the eyes of most.
Except it’s not a travesty.
In fact, the widespread availability of graphic novels is a godsend for right-brained, creative kids.
Graphic Novels and Twaddle
I know because I was a teacher turned homeschooler who firmly believed in the importance of phonics and thought children should spend their time focusing on “quality” literature. Quality literature certainly did not include comic books or anything like graphic novels. I even created a list of 100 Classic Children’s Picture Books to use in my homeschooling endeavors because I believed in the importance of quality literature.
Then God apparently decided it would be interesting for everyone involved to give me a right-brained, creative daughter who hated phonics (because they made absolutely no sense to her) and whose reading really took off primarily starting with me leaving a pile of Calvin and Hobbes anthologies on the coffee table.
And so I had to rethink everything I thought I believed about reading and literature and what’s important.
Reading Ffor the Right-Brained and Creative Child
If you have a right-brained child and/or a highly creative child, I invite you to do something that will probably take 15 minutes of your time. It is a short amount of time to invest in something that could be potentially life-changing in how you teach your child.
- First, read through the comments on What is Twaddle? to get a feel for the mindset of “serious” homeschoolers about books and learning. And I’m NOT criticizing these moms. I truly believe they love their kids and want what is best for them. But there is so much there that conscientious homeschoolers internalize without even realizing it. (And with that internalization comes the potential for a lot of shame.)
- Then, read Comic Books from The Right Side of Normal to get a completely different take on books.
- Then, go back and read through the comments on What is Twaddle? again. Consider how many of those “obvious” and non-negotiable standards put forth by those moms completely fly in the face of what creative, right-brained kids needs.
What many parents view as “twaddle” may be exactly what their child needs. But if they have a bias against anything that remotely looks like it could be twaddle, they are actually making reading and learning MORE difficult for their child. Instead of filling their child’s mind with the “best” of literature so as to give her the “best” education possible, they are in many ways denying their child what would truly feed and grow her mind in the best way.
Food for thought for all the conscientious moms who want to make the best choices for their child, but might be missing out on some of the big picture components of what that child actually needs.
Books My Right-Brained, Creative Daughter Loved
I have no idea how many picture books we read between the time Caroline was six months and nine or ten years old. Hundreds. I can’t even begin to list here all that we read and enjoyed. I laugh at the suggestion that we should only read a few carefully selected books to our child. People who promote that obviously never had a child who craves variety and novelty.
Like her mother, Caroline’s very particular about the art in picture books. For example, Make Way for Ducklings may be a classic by many standards, but the pictures were boring for Caroline. So we read a lot of books with colorful and interesting illustrations. I perceived from early on they met a need in Caroline that I couldn’t fully explain, but that was obvious.
I’ve made a few lists of books that have worked well for us.
- Which Children’s Bible is Best for Your Child?
- A Month of Cozy Children’s Books
- 100 Wholesome Books for Girls and Tweens
You can see all of my book posts here that include many other picture books. There are many more as well that I’m still assembling into book lists. But suffice it to say that we read a lot of books with colorful, rich illustrations.
Graphic Novels My Right-Brained, Creative Daughter Enjoys
Graphic novels and comic books are a favorite of right-brained and creative kids. As I said before, reading really took off with the introduction of a pile of Calvin and Hobbes anthologies. This was a number of years ago and she still reads them. She has them all in her room and kind of claimed them as her own. LOL!
Here is a sampling of some others she has enjoyed (in no particular order).
Happy reading with your creative, right-brained child as you discern what is best for your family!
My daughter has recently gotten into the BabyMouse books and similar books by the same artist/author team. It’s not quality literature, but it is something she’s enjoying reading–getting excited about picking up from the library.
Interestingly, it’s helping her develop skills to put stories on paper. She’s writing comic strips herself, and putting down the words. (She’s highly verbal, so the story itself isn’t the problem, just writing it down.)
As a former English teacher, I greatly value reading practice. I saw too many middle school or even high school kids who couldn’t read their (high quality) literature very well, because they hadn’t developed a love of reading.
Love of reading is generally the tool that gets kids fast enough at reading that it’s second nature and not something they have to think about. I think a lot of parents miss the importance of kids reading for fun (often things that would be considered twaddle) once they have learned to read.
I also expose my child to quality literature, whether left around for her to discover, or (if too hard) I read it to her as a “read aloud.”
I like how gracious you were about the moms who jumped on the anti-twaddle bandwagon.
Somehow I missed responding to your comment when you originally made it!
Caroline loves stories, but unless something really changes I don’t ever seeing her getting excited about high quality literature. She could surprise me, but I don’t see it happening.
But she loves a good exciting story and also loves comics and anime type things. The visuals of them speak to her in a way that the detailed written word simply doesn’t.
It’s hard finding that balance as a homeschool mom between wanting to give your child opportunities and at the same time realizing that they probably just don’t fit who God created her to be.
I’m still sorting all that out.
Thanks for this. My gifted daughter got to the point where she was passed the beginner chapter books, but wouldn’t move on to the more advanced ones because they didn’t have pictures. Graphic novels and comic style books filled the gap. We still read a mix of both.
Our favorite valuable twaddle reading is Garfield. I don’t know how many times my 10-year-old has reread that anthology. Love of reading and letting your kids explore and find out what they love are both so important. Sure, I read them all the classics and assign them classics to read. But that doesn’t replace Garfield he has a very important place in our home.
I love that you mentioned Calvin and Hobbes! <3 My boys found reading to be a chore, and my husband bought them a Calvin and Hobbes book on a whim.
The rest was history. 🙂 They poured over that first book, then bought many more. We've made it a tradition to gift them to our friends for birthdays, spreading the love of Calvin and Hobbes to all of our buddies.
My guys love Foxtrot and Far Side, too.