I was recently reading something posted in a Facebook group for librarians in which a bunch of my fellow book lovers were discussing the stories they dreaded reading aloud to children. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly to some, quite a few of the mentioned titles were some of the most iconic books for kids, including Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Marcus Pfizer's The Rainbow Fish. Even Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree was mentioned!
These titles, and others like them, were generally brought up by librarians because they felt that the books were too slow, too dull, or sometimes just plain old creepy. And while it would go against my moral code to say I could hate reading a book to a child ... I can see what my colleagues are saying – and they're not the only ones.
"The problem is that young children have terrible taste and enjoy garbage. Another problem, which compounds the first problem, is that they want to hear the same books hundreds of times in a row. So for all the joys that storytime can offer, it frequently entails a kind of dismal self-abnegation that’s too excruciating even to describe as tedium – an actively painful sense of my precious time on earth being torn from my chest and tossed into a furnace," – Roth, Slate.
In his article, Roth is referring particularly to The Poky Little Puppy, one of history's best-selling children's books. And while kids may enjoy the story of the cute little canine, adults oftentimes see the book as being pointless, boring and lacking any real moral. As one of the original 12 Little Golden Books first published in 1942, this story has been passed down from generation to generation – but not because it is a captivating story. As Roth explains, the book's popularity and sales persist solely because of nostalgia. He goes on to write:
"Millions of people enjoyed The Poky Little Puppy as children, because it was cheap and because, being children, they had no standards. They grew up to be parents, remembered the book fondly from childhood, and purchased it for their own children," – Roth, Slate.
This "inter-generational cycle of crap," as Roth so aptly calls it, is what makes a lot of popular children's books be read over and over again (maybe to the chagrin of their parents and librarians). So what can we do to break the cycle? Replace those books with better suggestions!
A FlavorWire.com article written by Emily Temple picked up where Roth left off and recommends some great alternatives to those canonical classics adults dread and children love. Instead of The Poky Little Puppy, Temple suggests The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg – "A highly satisfying story in which a mean dentist gets his due AND there’s a cute dog to look at AND there are Van Allsburg’s typical hazy-wondrous illustrations," writes Temple.
As the article suggests, maybe it's time to retire Robert Munsch's Love You Forever in exchange for Wild by Emily Hughes, an adorable picture book about a little girl who has known nothing but nature from birth. Perhaps one should swap out Hans Christian Andersen's The Princess and the Pea for The Princess Who Saved Herself by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa, a book inspiring girls to be their own heroes. After all, shouldn't storytime be enjoyable for everyone involved?
To view all of Temple's suggestions to replace those lovable but lackluster titles, click here.
Instead of this ...
... Try this!