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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Creative kids can't spell


This is a personal rant against a trend in children’s literature.

This rant does not represent the thinking of Pen Parentis, just of me.

Ready?

I am so frustrated by the current trend of books aimed at a younger child audience that are filled with intentionally misspelled words (Junie B Jones, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, etc.) – presumably to show that the main character who is writing the book is a child.

Not only does it presuppose that all kids are dismal spellers, it pushes the (false) notion that creative people must have terrible spelling. And it enshrines the belief that spelling doesn’t matter.

Idea#1 – "It makes the book more real." My son actually said this to me in defense of one of these books.

I seem to recall plenty of diary books written in first person from the point of view of a child who had no spelling issues: Are you There, God, it’s Me, Margaret comes instantly to mind. Nothing was more real. I never had any doubt that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s main character was a child who grew up on a prairie writing on a slate--never! She didn't have to write letters and numbers reversed for us to know she was young.

As far as verisimilitude goes, I don’t recall The Outsiders having misspelled words among the slang S. E. Hinton used throughout. Far as I recall, the book uses the apostrophe very properly. And its author was actually a child. Well, ok, 19. So they say.

Idea #2 – "creative people all have terrible spelling."

Not going to grace this one with an answer. Well, okay. One: what about Harriet the Spy? 

Idea #3 – Spelling doesn’t matter.

It duz. Rilly. Its soupr annoing to reed bad speling. Even if you CAN.

I’m hoping that this trend will pass. You learn to spell mostly from early reading—just like you learn language from the people that surround you when you are an infant. If your parents have an accent, guess what, you have one too. It’s hard enough for a kid to figure out how to spell Light when it is spelled Lite on every package of food she has ever seen—can’t we petition the schools to please ensure that the books our kids read for reading class follow proper spelling and grammar rules?

The other books can all be in the library – I dislike censorship - but any assigned reading should really help the kids learn to write. If you're going to supply only broken tools, don't expect anyone to be able to build a birdhouse. 

I know, it’s a losing battle (heavy sigh) –which is why this is a rant and not a post.  Go write something. Sit in the sunshine. Listen to your inner editor. Buy him a cup of ice coffee. I'm buying mine an aspirin and a huge glass of water.

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