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Have you read the book “Dumbing Us Down” by John Taylor Gatto?
In this book the author tackles the issue of how he believes the current US public school system is an injustice to our children. That ultimately instead of providing our children with an education that will propel them to great successes, it is providing them with a watered down ‘education’ that is in fact dumbing society down, rather than building it up!
Recently I got to thinking whether the same could be said for the books parents are choosing to read aloud to young children!
Could reading books with extremely simplified word selection and minimal descriptions be doing a disservice to our children? Could our read aloud choices essentially be “Dumbing them Down” instead of building them up!
Allowing Children To Read Fluff!
Before I go any further I want to be clear. I DO believe in allowing children to read stories that some people may consider fluff!
The fact is if we want our children to become avid readers, then they must first enjoy reading! If that means reading something a little less substantial then so be it but I do not believe in allowing this to be the only type of book a child reads or is exposed too!
Variety is The Key!
A good variety and mix of different types of books will give a child exposure to a broad range of topics, experiences and vocabulary!
In The Read Aloud Family Sarah McKenzie advises parents to: “Avoid books with overly simplified or dumbed-down language.
The best read-alouds contain a wide range of words—the kind of words you want to speak out loud.” Sarah Mckenzie
Choosing books with a rich language will help your child in many ways :
1. Building Pictures
Firstly, when an author uses varied language with good descriptive words that pin point a specific idea, the reader builds a picture in their mind of this wonderful scene. They find themselves being pulled in. Children that get lost within a book will be wanting to read more and more. An enjoyable read aloud experience is what will turn your child into a book lover!
2. More Interesting For Parents to Read
A good book, with wide range of vocabulary is usually much nicer for us to read as parents and this shows simply through your tone of voice as your read. In turn creating a more enjoyable read aloud experience for your children. If you enjoy the stories you’ll be more likely to read aloud more frequently.
3. Growing Vocabulary
One of the reasons I started reading classic literature during our read alouds from the very beginning, was because of the rich language it was exposing the boys too. Of course exposure to text that is rich in its use of language will help grow your child’s vocabulary.
4. Teaching Children About The Importance of Word Choice
Childrens books that use a wide range of words, teach children about word choice and it’s importance it effective communication. I have written about in a more detail as this is an interesting and important reason why we should read reguarly with our children. You can read more here.
5.Exposure to Sentence Structure, good Grammar and Literary Skills
Books that have been “dumbed down” considerably for small children do not have the same potential for interesting uses of grammar, sentence structure and other literary skills that our children begin to develop through listening to stories!
6. Self Fulfilling Prophecies
This type of book, with a narrowed down vocabulary, also assumes that children are incapable of understanding larger words or complex ideas! Which is far from the truth! Such an assumption is almost a self fulfilling prophecy; since the way in which kids learn these things is through exposure.
These easy early readers are great for the child who is starting out their learning to read journey but they not optimal for making the most out of family read alouds!
Avoiding The Duming Them Down Trap!
Choosing carefully the books we share together as a family is there for rather important! It doesn’t have to be a case of fluff vs classics! There are many enjoyable books in between the two!
Find the balance. Choose books that have a good variety of language and vocabulary to avoid falling into the “Dumbing Them Down” trap.
Plus sign up for our 30 Day Learning Through Literature Challange!