Entertaining Them


junie3

It seemed to happen overnight. My daughter entered kindergarten and suddenly every little girl that I came across between the ages of 5 and 8 was into Junie B. Jones books. I was thrilled when my daughter brought one home from school. The move to reading actual chapter books and having a need to use a bookmark was pretty exciting for us both. Near the end of the first book, my excitement started to wane.  By the end of the second book, I was (perhaps irrationally) pissed off. We didn’t make it through the third book because I stopped reading it and chucked it at the wall. I just couldn’t take any more of the bad grammar and the silly baby talk. I found myself starting to loathe Junie B., a precocious kid without the other redeeming qualities that are often found in precocious children–wit, charm,  an uncanny insight into the adult psyche. The cloying precociousness, the cliched baby talk and speech patterns and the saccharine-cute mispronunciations seemed included for the amusement of parents.  “Oh, that darn Junie, what a little stinker!”  But it’s really not that cute, and perhaps not that beneficial for kids who are at stage in their learning where they are just getting a handle on on grammar, figuring out the mysteries of spelling, and perhaps just overcoming their own mispronunciations.

I’m all for a little light reading. I gorged myself on all 3 million Sweet Valley High Books and stayed up nights surreptitiously reading the sublimely trashy V.C. Andrews books. But that was after years of reading authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary (who created a much more sympathetic precocious child in Ramona), and Madeline L’Engle. It was only after reading books like Island of the Blue Dolphin and Julie of the Wolves that really made me think and provided the backdrop for hours of made-up wilderness games.  And after reading series books that I still think about 30 years later like Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, and The Boxcar Children.

I get the argument: kids like Junie B. Jones books and if they get kids reading and interested in books, well how bad can they really be? But aren’t there better books to make new readers love reading? I’m not opposed to a bit of kid smut, but should we start there? Should we and our schools really be leading with Junie B. Jones? With so many great books out there, I think we can do better.

I’d love to hear some great series books that you’ve found.  My daughter just finished reading and really enjoyed Cynthia Rylant’s series The Cobble Street Cousins about three adventurous and inventive little girls who live with their Aunt Lucy.

 

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Comments (15)

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  1. Posted by: Beth

    Oh thank you for this! I have NEVER liked these rude, tacky books and neither of my 2 daughters got to “enjoy” Junie B. My girls are 7 and 9 and not social outcast or worse for wear for not indulging. The girls and I love Misty of Chincoteague (and Margaret Henry’s other Chincoteague themed books), the Clementine series (she’s cheeky and cute!) and Ivy and Bean books. My oldest is into Nancy Drew now and reading the Narnia series. I don’t think “getting kids reading” justifies reading poor role models over and over – one Junie B. is more than enough. You can have the cheek, without over sassing, and pull kids into the magic world of reading with so much else. Good luck with the responses!

  2. Posted by: Elizabeth

    I have been a teacher for a long time, and I agree with you. Junie B. Jones is unreadable, and Junie is somewhat disrespectful. There are too many good books out there to waste time on Junie.

    Beverly Cleary books, along with all the other wonderful books you mentioned are a much better alternative.

  3. Posted by: Tacy

    You are not alone. The Junie box set got 104 one-star reviews on Amazon, most of them citing your reasons.

  4. LOVE THIS!!! my daughter is 6 and we have not read the Junie B.’s and from all that I’ve managed to glean….we’re not gonna!

    She’s ready for longer stories at night time together reading and we’ve been going through the shorter Roald Dahl books (The Twits, George’s Marvelous Medicine, The Enormous Crocodile), the ‘My Father’s Dragon’ series (PURE GENIUS AWESOME), Winnie the Pooh (anyone remember Pooh????), and we just began the Lauren Child illustrated version of ‘Pippi’.

    After that, we’ll embark on the ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ series by Enid Blyton.

    There’s enough fab out there to warrant avoiding the trash, I think!

  5. Posted by: Susan

    Thank you thank you thank you. This post could not have come at a better time. My daughter is six and we attempted to read a Junie B. book only to stop half way through. We both disliked it so much. So glad to hear suggestions for other chapter books. Keep them coming!

  6. Posted by: mk

    so very exactly right. thank you. Magic Treehouse is very popular with my 8-year-old, but she still goes back to the Little House books over and over again.

  7. Posted by: guest

    The low expectations for children when people shrug off quality just because they feel a child reading anything is positive grates my nerves.

    The Diddakoi by Rummer Godden and Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer can be bought though the UK Amazon site. I re read these recently in a mid-life nostalgia binge and they are still lovely.

  8. Posted by: laurie

    Magic Tree House is a great first chapter book series. About the same reading level as Junie B. but with two characters, brother and sister, with whom kids can really identify. I actually had to explain to my son, who is an excellent reader and comprehender, why Junie B. was talking “that way”. If you’re having to explain intended humor like that, there’s no point! Not very funny! :)

  9. Call me crazy, but I’d take Junie over the Magic Tree House books any day of the week. I actually edit each sentence before the words come out of my mouth because I’m so irritated by them. Books for the newly independent reader are just really tough in general………. but we did have some success with the Mercy Watson series by Kate diCamillo.

  10. Posted by: Laura

    AMEN! Why would I ever want my kid to read a book about a brat??
    There are too many amazing books with inspiring heroines in them to give this dreck the time of day!

  11. Posted by: Brenda

    I refuse to read Junie B. Jones & Rainbow Magic series–complete junk. My daughter who is starting kindergarten, loves the Ivy + Bean series. We’ve probably read the series 4 times and laughed the entire way!

  12. Oh, the tyranny of Junie B! It’s hard to find anything else at my local B&N.

    The Boxcar Children series is great, as is The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. And don’t forget classics like The Secret Garden and Little Women. And Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (yes, that Julie Andrews!) is WONDERFUL too.

  13. Posted by: Randi

    I once ageed with the sentiment in this article. This was especially true when I first read one of the books to my daughter. But, when she started reading independently and asks to read Junie books again and again, I am estatic that she wants to read independently. She knows the phrases Junie uses are grammatically incorrect and she talks about Junie’s good or bad choices. I pushed for other chapter books with no success. She found these on her own and feels good about. It’s only a phase she’ll read other books eventually.

    In the mean time I keep reading to her and introducing her to other books and characters. She hears correct grammar and figuring out the words and sentences in Junie books can be a challenge.

  14. Posted by: carol

    I am always recommending Geronimo Stilton.

  15. Posted by: AW

    Our 8 year old daughter’s favorites so far are the Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley and the youngest Judy Blume books about Peter and Fudge (there are five, starting with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing) plus Freckle Juice.

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