Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Newest Old Education Dust-Up

Is Junie B. Jones good, clean fun that kids can laugh at and learn lessons from, or a bad example that could lead your child to talk like a kindergartener for life, and develop habits that, at a minimum, could lead to reform school, or at a maximum endanger their immortal soul?

The New York Times expends their considerable journalistic powers (in multiple pages, no less) to figure out where parents are drawing the line in the sand.

I will say that Junie B. is not a role model in her every behavior. She is a role model in that she learns from her mistakes. She is not shielded from the consequences of her actions. It opens up many opportunities for discussion with your children ("Do you think that was a good choice, or a bad choice?"). And it's really funny. The kids laugh out loud--a lot of times because they get that she is not behaving well.

My first experience with Junie B. was her very first book, "The Stupid, Smelly Bus." It was recommended by the librarian. In it, Junie B. is going to kindergarten for the first time and does not like riding the bus. At the end of the day, she decides to hide so she won't have to go on the bus. But--she has to do potty, REALLY bad. It's a potty emergency. What was it you're supposed to do in an emergency? Oh yeah, call 911. Of course, we got to explain that there are 911 emergencies and not-911 emergencies, and hiding from the bus and not being able to go potty is one of them. My daughter laughed herself silly. Sometimes, I have to admit, I've laughed myself silly.

Would I be happier with more heroic, role-model types of heroes? Yes, and we have some of those too. But in a lot of ways, Junie B. is a role model. If she's ready to do something--then it's going to be done. She is also very much of an independent thinker and actor.

So Junie B. Jones is a thumbs up in our house complete with some back-talk, bad grammar, poor choices, name-calling, and other questionable behavior. Like Eloise, it's an example of what-could-happen-if that also can help us discuss appropriateness with our kids.


concernedCTparent said...

You will find Junie B. Jones in our home library too. Along with Eloise (love her) and Wayside Stories. Don't you love it when they laugh out loud? You're so right about the great opportunities for discussion.

Want to read something really fun? Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein is a FAVORITE right next all his other works of creative genius (Where the Sidewalk Ends, Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros etc.) Following the logic of those who rally against Junie B. Jones, we might fear our children might start talking backwards (runny babbit) or trying to sell their sister on the cheap (Where the Sidewalk Ends-Sister For Sale). How silly is that?

I'm with you. This is good, clean fun that makes me laugh out loud too!

Kim said...

Thanks for listing your other favorites.

Another poet (sometimes good for kids--other times really good for adults) is Ogden Nash. Some of his works on-line:

Ryan said...

I do 8 to 10 of the Junie B. books as read-alouds to my kids every year, and there's several places where I break out laughing before I can get the words out to the kids. It makes them perk up, because they know if it got Mr. Grant it must be something good.

Great post!

Kim said...

One of my kid's teachers used to do elementary teaching in Montessori before moving into the primary classroom. She just loved Junie B., and so did the kids. But she would have parents asking her not to read it because it was disrespectful. You should have heard the disdain when she said these were the same parents letting their kids watch Rugrats!

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

What IS this about some people wanting to ban Junie B. Jones?

If a character backtalking his/her parents was suddenly grounds for the entertainment death penalty, then half the Disney channel should be sent to the gallows for making parents seem like idiots. Now, THAT would probably upset me less.

Junie B. Jones books have puns, and I agree with you about her having to take responsibility for her actions.

Kim said...

When I watched some of the Disney shows with my older step-daughter (who was the age my oldest is now), I was amazed. People act stupid, teachers and parents are idiots, everyone is dressed like hip hop artists (too many accessories, how many new fads can you fit into one outfit), friends are mostly disrespectful to each other, and the language used was dumbed down. I decided the Disney channel was worse than regular primetime TV for my kids.