Skip to comments.The 5 Worst Books for Your Children: Why they should be avoided.
Posted on 12/08/2013 6:53:26 PM PST by SeekAndFind
As a reader, the mother of four children, and an author, I want my kids to love to read and to approach reading as joy and nourishment. The following five works of fiction do not encourage and inspire the love of reading in children. They’re terrible books for kids. If you make your children read these they will develop a loathing for reading that will last their whole lives and may possibly poison their very souls. Let’s see why.
Note: Minor spoilers.
This is a set of four short stories set in the western United States and an excellent example of John Steinbeck’s famously spare, elegant prose. Beautifully written, with underlying themes of death and redemption, we can all agree that this is a classic. Did I mention the gruesome death of the title character, the beloved red pony? No? Want to watch your children sob in heartbreak and then continue on to read the next three stories with increasing puzzlement and despair as the complicated themes go over their heads and they must endure the agonizing death of another beloved horse? The Red Pony will not give your children a desire to read for pleasure. Just because a novel features a child doesn’t mean that the work is appropriate for them.
Yes, children should be exposed to stories of heartbreak, loss, and redemption, but there are much better novels than Steinbeck’s to share with your child. Hand over Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, or Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Each of these books will make your child cry, but in the end will fill them with joy.
Oh, take that shocked look off your face. Of course this is a beloved classic and almost every school child has to read the story of Native American Karana and her tale of survival as a stranded young girl on an island off the coast of California. But why? Karana is an emotionless character who plods along in her adventure one grim day at a time. She makes a great sacrifice to save her brother, but her sacrifice is made useless when her brother dies shortly afterward. Scott O’Dell evokes the abundance of life and the beauty of the western coast, but Karana lives a spare, bleak life. She endures on the island for years, alone. In the end Karana is rescued by a passing ship, a passive ending to a sad tale.
Children need stories that teach them heroism, ingenuity, and success in the face of adversity. Try Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, or My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. I never wanted to see Karana’s island after I finished Island of the Blue Dolphins. But Sam Gribley’s tree house in My Side of the Mountain? I wanted to go live there. Somewhere in my heart, I always will.
Don’t be surprised if your twelve year old comes home from school with this book as part of her required reading. All of mine did, and I read the novel and admired the gritty, urban life that Myers evokes in the story of Steve Harmon, on trial for murder after a botched robbery of a convenience store. Myers uses a nifty movie-script format interspersed with diary entries. This is an excellent book but it’s terrible for children. Why do I say this? Does exposing your child to a description of a homosexual gang rape sound like fun? Later in the story, your child will read about an anal butt plug insertion. My twelve-year-old children were assigned a novel that describes sodomy and sex toys.
Even worse, there is the sympathy that Myers creates for Steve, a terribly misled youngster who was involved in a murder. Pre-teens might identify with Steve so much that they think it’s okay to be found innocent of murder as long as you “didn’t really mean to.” Myers wrote a terrific book and I recommend it for older teens who can understand conflict without confusing it for absolution. Don’t give your children this book.
If you’d like your child to read a novel that describes the complexity and heartbreak of the accused, try To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Homelanders series by Andrew Klavan, or the always wonderful The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
This trilogy written by the English author Pullman consists of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, called the His Dark Materials series. They were written as an opposition to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, a seven book fantasy series that intends to “inkle” a belief and love of Christianity in young children. His Dark Materials is intended to foster a belief in atheism in children. How charming.
Unlike an agnostic tale where God is not present, the His Dark Materials series is all about God, and is full of rage and bitterness at Him and His angels. Children often enjoy the tale of Lyra Belacqua and her Golden Compass, but they are really reading a revenge fantasy. Christian or not, this is not the kind of emotional bile you want your child absorbing.
If you want to show your children fantastical and wondrous worlds of magic and adventure, try The Chronicles of Narnia or the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.These stories will uplift, entertain, and suffuse your children with the joy of reading.
The worst of the five terrible books for your children is this one, and this is a story that your child will devour in delight. A Series of Unfortunate Events is a tale of nihilism and despair packaged in such a charming way that children and their loving parents will laugh and only wonder later why their stomachs feel queasy and strange. The author, Lemony Snicket, writes incredibly well. The three main characters, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, are orphan siblings who love and care for each other. Their adventures are thrilling. But this is a terrible, terrible series for your children. Why?
At the end of each book, Count Olaf, the villain, has successfully removed the children from a loving home, having killed the person the children have just learned to love, and has turned them back into orphans. In each book, Violet and Klaus come up with a brilliant plan to escape him, or to defeat him, but they always just barely manage to escape, and usually through some plot twist that doesn’t even come from their ideas. Ask a child who loves the series and they’ll tell you that Count Olaf is a great guy. He’s the winner, and who doesn’t love a winner? He never gets his heart broken, he is never sad, dejected, or lonely. He never cries himself to sleep. Violet and Klaus and Sunny survive, but in such abject misery that no one in their right mind would choose to be them. No child looks at Violet and says: Look how beneficial it is to study and be smart and invent things. No. The lesson is that no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, the bad guys are always smarter, and will come out on top because evil pays. That is the overall message of these books.
Do you think children understand this? Let me share a story. As an author of a children’s adventure book for reluctant readers, I am often asked to speak at schools. I was recently explaining about heroes to a group of kids in an elementary school in Parker, Colorado, when a young girl raised her hand. She was a cheerful and sweet little girl with long blonde pigtails. I called on her.
“What about evil? I like books where evil wins,” she asked me. I stood speechless as the teacher explained with a laugh that, not to worry, her student was currently enjoying the Lemony Snicket books.
There are places where evil wins, but that place should not be in our children’s hearts. Want to share a wonderful tale with your children that teaches them that evil doesn’t pay? Read Holes by Louis Sachar or A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my list. Which books did you despise as a youngster or love with all your heart? We all want to give our children the love of reading by sharing books with them that will encourage and inspire them, and avoid the books that don’t. Happy reading!
I am sure there are a lot worse out there, but I guess they aren’t mainstream enough
Pullman is really despicable.
That is a good read.
Another good one is "Homer Price" by Robert McCloskey.
I was allowed to read whatever I wanted when I was young and I devoured everything I could get my hands on. I continue to read at least a couple hours daily to this day.
So many books out there. It doesn’t hurt if parents help children choose wisely. I think “censorship” is a strong word.
“Heather Has Two Mommies.”
It’s not censorship for parents to want to give guidance to their children.
The Xanth books by Piers Anthony are something to keep far far away from impressionable kids.
Keeping harmful material away from kids is a great idea.
Your opinion is wrong.
Let your kids read anything. Be happy they are reading at all.
Kids don’t go bad because of something they read. Those that go bad are either genetically predisposed to go that way or have other external factors that make it happen.
Reading is good. Totally good.
I remember my mother beginning to read “the Velveteen Rabbit” to me, but she didn’t get very far because I grabbed the book from her and threw it across the room.
“Black Beauty” I also found traumatic.
I basically won’t read or watch any animal stories because the animal always dies.
I detested reading Catcher in the Rye in 8th grade. Very depressing theme.
You might not like “Where the Red Fern Grows” then
These are good books for your kids
“Native Son” by Richard Wright. I read it in the 6th grade. I wish I hadn’t.
Of these five, Pullman is thoroughly evil. Definitely the worst of the bunch.
I hate to say it, but I got a kick out of reading the Lemony Snicket books. But the kids have to have a sense of humor and irony. They turn everything upside down, but do so in a way that I found awful yet comical. And good prevails in the end—finally.
The next could be
Help Mom, bureaucrats shut down my lemonade stand
The Red Pony and Island of the Blue Dolphins were two of my favorites.
Same and same. My opinion is wrong as well then.
garbage in, garbage out ain’t just a river in China
Oh no, Twilight is truly terrible and girls love it. It’s got pedophilia, and all kinds of abusive relationships portrayed as “true love”.
My personal favorite was the girl who, when she tried to dump her boyfriend, he freaked out and maimed her, but she decided to stay with him, because he must really love her if losing her would make him go crazy like that.
The only one I’ve heard of was the “Series of Unfortunate Events” that my kids read and liked.
And ‘ya know what. Sometimes Evil does win. (Here on earth anyways).
Censorship of books is wrong, even for kids.Respectfully, no. You are wrong. It is essential for kids. It defines responsible parenting.
When one of my children were in middle school she was assigned a book to read that I didn’t approve of. I talked to her teacher and she let her read another book. It was no big deal.
My daughter read that as an assignment in school. In fact I thought a lot of the books she was given in school were very morbid. But we always discussed them at length. I’m pretty sure you are right and that was one of the many that turned me off.
My kid really hates to read, she never reads for pleasure. It’s a shame, she takes after her father. But she was always excellent at literary analysis, I was very impressed with some papers she wrote.
I love to read, but I never get much about the ‘theme’ or foreshadowing or anything like that.
They try to slip in crypto-marxist messages into children’s books. It’s a political tactic. Began a looooong time ago. Pullman is a real bitter, twisted, old hack.
As long and swampy as they are for young readers, I do recommend Tolkien’s books. Wonderful themes.
You do have to be careful what you let children read. And no, its not ‘censorship’. Children are under the stewardship of their parents. I would not let my child read ‘Mein Kampf’, and I apply the same principle to other books with questionable, brainwashing content.
All media forms are there to be analyzed by developed minds and discerning eyes. We censor things from children all the time, pornography being the most prominent example. It’s your duty as a parent to bring your child up free from diabolical influences.
Snap! I also had to read Native Son, and we had a class discussion on it. To my surprise, many people saw right through it and condemned the main character, much to what I think was the chagrin of our teacher, recognizing that no conditions or treatment can be used to justify evil. Evil is evil.
Twilight was once described to me in very accurate terms.
“A young woman’s choice between necrophilia and bestiality”
There are a LOT of rehashes of the same story with subliminal imagery thrown in. I’d also try to roll back some of this anthropomorphizing garbage kids have become accustomed to since Bambi. I have met some young girls and even boys who care more about the rights of animals than the rights of people.
the real Karana died shortly after being rescued
I always tell my kids that animals would eat them if they could.
That is really messed up
This is an interesting list and approach to the topic.
There are books that are obvious negative books, but what about books that are common and popular but really do have long-term ramifications on a child?
The thing is, a book must be good and have some merit to have an impact.
I would add to this list (not that I necessarily concur with this particular list) Harriet the Spy.
It’s a “beloved classic”. But it starts with a note saying “Jesus hates you” and goes on to tell the story of a little girl who has what is essentially a nervous breakdown.
I remember as a kid how that book made me feel rather anxious and uneasy.
What? no mention of the depressing harry potter? I only saw the movie and there was no hope, joy or faith in goodness. Fire with fire, not love quenching evil.
“Censorship of books is wrong, even for kids.”
So you won’t mind when I give your 10 year old daughter a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. I mean, censorship is wrong......
I hated Catcher in the Rye
I hated Black Beauty because of the cruelty
I hated Old Yeller because he died.
my kids and I enjoyed the Lemony Snickett books and never thought Count Olaf was a good guy
Go ahead. My 10-year-old will be bored after the first page.
I hate all of Steinbeck’s depressing “works”
I have an English degree so I have read a lot of things. The modern stuff is mostly crap
Yes to Wrinkle in Time and Homer Price.
There was another one like Homer Price called Henry Reed that was illustrated by McClosky but not written by him. I liked that series a lot as well.
Read the books.
I loved Jim Carey’s portrayal of Count Olaf. http://youtu.be/y4Eh-xpcJsY