The Reading Dilemma – Separating the Twaddle from the Great Books

the reading dilemma - The Classical Unschooler

Ah, reading aloud.

Now that I have accepted that I am a Christian classical unschooler, the first thing I had to accept was that reading to the children was imperative. But what to read? Take a walk into any book store or library and they all seem to agree – read, read, read to the children!

Of course we know reading is important, especially since we read about this “expert” claiming that reading to our children gives them an unfair advantage over those children who have not been read to.

So there you have it – no matter which side you look at it from, the read aloud glass is half full.

But read what?

I came face to face with this dilemma last week when I picked up Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Yes, I’d been wanting to read it for a long time to the children. Yes, it’s old. Yes, it was written at a time when refrigeration was new.


We hated it. Okay, I hated it. My seven year old daughter liked it. My five year old son hated it.

Maybe because we had just read The Hobbit with its grand themes and epic adventures. But, you guys, there was nothing for me to hang my hat on.

Mr. Popper was a house painter who dreamed of far away places and travel. Mr. Popper was also concerned about the coming winter and having enough to feed his family, then he got a penguin sent to him – which grew into twelve penguins, then he turned his refrigerator into a penguin home, then he had to renovate the rest of his home, then he thought, Well, I could train these penguins to do shows and pay off my debts, and on and on and on. Eventually… well, okay, I guess I won’t give away the end for those of you who are clearly glued to your seats.


I hate twaddle. And I’m beginning to think the reason most parents don’t like to reading to their children is because many children’s books are twaddle. I know I certainly did not.

Thank God I am finding out that children are very capable indeed of handling big themes, big issues. They do not need twaddle.

And I would contend that fairytales, if you think about them, are not twaddle.

What do you think? What do you read to your kids? Do I need to lighten up?

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Author: Purva Brown

Writer / blogger at – unapologetically blending two seeming opposites.

1 thought on “The Reading Dilemma – Separating the Twaddle from the Great Books”

  1. I think a certain amount of “whimsy” (not a lot) is fun. However, I do agree that the “experts” are guilty of wanting to dumb down our read-alouds because those precious darlings simply can’t wrap their brains around anything “meaty.” WRONG!!!

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