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Ramona the Pest, Beezus and Ramona... do you let your kids read them?


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One of the things that sort of rubs me the wrong way about the question is the idea that kids should never read about kids who aren't, say, the Five Little Peppers or something - just relentlessly good. Literature, even for kids, should be about something real, and kids being confused by adults, finding their emotions go out of control, not getting along with everyone, having to be polite about things they dislike... that's real for kids, and, honestly, for adults too.

 

I once read a review of the Penderwicks where someone admonished everyone not to read these books - Skye and Jane didn't get along and their father let Rosalind do all the cooking - he obviously was a terrible parent. And I just thought, gah, some people want only the most sanitized, too cute books for kids. They want everything to be The Pony Party (The Pony Party is the imaginary fake book cover that came with editions of some of the Series of Unfortunate Events books at one point - so adults wouldn't know you were reading a "bad" book - it was about three siblings to whom good things like parties with ponies were the only thing that ever happened).

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I loved Ramona as a kid because she seemed very real and had feelings and situations I could imagine being in. I also really liked that her family is lower middle class, and struggles to have jobs, put food on the table, etc. There's no real poverty or anything, but I identified with a book about a girl whose family had to count their pennies and be careful, especially since so many book characters for kids seem to have unlimited funds. I loved these books and they meant a lot to me. I think the relationship between the girls is a good teaching tool- they do unkind things to each other, but then they learn how harmful their behavior can be, and how to be kinder. 

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ABSOLUTELY love the Ramona books. I'm trying to think of all of the "bad influences" referred to above - the antics in the books seem to be so true to experience that there's nothing bad. Language, maybe, but of the "you're stupid!" type that we'd not entered when we started listening to them.

 

Ramona is such a beautifully crafted character. Her development through the entire book series is genuine. The books are so real. We love to do them as read-alounds and will revisit them as the little kids grow, which is such a gift because there are so many lessons to take at different ages. 

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We read quite a bit of Beverly Cleary as read alouds some time ago. My impression is that they are good clean fun family stories. Sure, the girls quarrel, but they always make up and the family always overcomes any adversity. Plus hearing the perspective of the older sibling can help younger siblings, and vice versa. 

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We love Ramona. We recently came to the end of reading all of them out loud together. Supposedly it was for the 5 year old but the older two always wanted to listen in (they had heard all the books at least once already). My 5 year old recently picked up one of the Ramona books and was trying to read it on her own. 

 

I loved Ramona as a kid also. She is so real. I never though that the naughty things she did were things to emulate, just that they were real things that kids did. Like someone upthread, I was more of a Beezus and I also liked that Cleary portrays Beezus as wanting to be good but also not always wanting to be good. I can remember feeling that way. I didn't have siblings so I think I always found the sibling relationship fascinating. Now that I'm the mother of multiple kids, I find the way they are portrayed very real. 

 

I can't imagine not allowing them or thinking of them as not worthy to be read. 

 

 

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WHAT?! I love the Ramona books. I grew up reading them over and over and over again. She is called Ramona the Pest; do you really think your child is going to copy her 'bad' behavior? I cannot imagine that a young reader is going to think oh, I want to pull boing-boing curls like Ramona... Ramona gets in trouble for pulling the hair. I think these stories are such a great way to show that kids make mistakes, good kids make mistakes, good kids feel jealousy, anger, and want to fit in.  (remember when she cracks an egg on her head because she wants to be cool and the egg was not hard boiled?!) I think these stories have so much to offer in term of conversation. I always felt like my older sister was perfect (just like Beezus), and I struggled with my jealousy- knowing it was wrong. It was so great to read Ramona and know that was normal. Ramona perfectly captured what it felt like to be a kid. 

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I lived in Yamhill once.  Just sayin'.  

 

:eek: Jean, have you been hiding the fact that you're really Beverly Cleary from us ALL THIS TIME???

 

I SO wanted to pull other girls' boing-boing curls when I saw them... even before Ramona. I had stick-straight hair, and I longed for ringlets! They looked like so much fun!

 

IMO, these books are classics simply because all the characters are so relatable. To this day, I sometimes think that, like Ramona's mother, I'd like to spend an afternoon sitting on a cushion blowing the fluff off the dandelions instead of being so SENSIBLE all the time.

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None of my kids have ever gotten into the Ramona series, although a couple have either read or listened to one or more. 

 

When I was a pre-teen, I read the entire series of "Mandy" books.  Anybody remember those?  In retrospect, they were Christian trash literature.  The main character repeatedly disrespects and hurts others, and aside from tearful apologies, never grows.  I remember feeling so angry while reading them, so much angst.  I empathized, but didn't grow.

 

Eldest read the entire Mandy series. I read one to make sure it was 'ok' and DD & I talked about how spoiled & terrible-behaving Mandy was. I couldn't believe she wanted to read the rest of them. The books are written in such a way that I think we're supposed to admire her or something, but I could only disdain the horrid girl.

 

ETA:  I have more appreciation for Ramona after having listened to the "Homeschooling Ramona" online talk. I hadn't realized I had a Ramona until I listened to the talk. Then, I recognized her in my house!  :willy_nilly:

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IIRC, there was a thread about this a couple of years ago.   Like an earlier poster, we've chosen to avoid these until the children are older than the characters, so they can look back with a more mature perspective.   As it turns out, my eldest ones have reached that age, and it just hasn't come up.  We have far too many good books as is.

 

I do think there's a valid concern about young children, especially, getting ideas to "try out" new types of misbehavior.  Maybe mine are defective or something, but they have picked up some slang, name-calling, pranks, etc. from other children's books.    :tongue_smilie: There's also a bit of heavy subject matter in some books in this series, relating to adult problems that my little people have been largely sheltered from, though Ramona evidently wasn't (nor was I, as a public schooled child in the 70s). 

 

One of the things that sort of rubs me the wrong way about the question is the idea that kids should never read about kids who aren't, say, the Five Little Peppers or something - just relentlessly good. Literature, even for kids, should be about something real, and kids being confused by adults, finding their emotions go out of control, not getting along with everyone, having to be polite about things they dislike... that's real for kids, and, honestly, for adults too.

It's true that Cleary was going for realism -- she was one of the first American children's writers to take this approach -- and others who came after her took it much farther.   I think most parents are going to draw the line somewhere; it's just a matter of where.

 

For our family, realism also brings issues related to worldview.   With many authors, even when inappropriate behavior is corrected, it's presented in terms of utilitarian or purely social considerations, rather than with reference to some higher purpose -- e.g., see Dabrowski's levels.   This isn't something we'd try to avoid entirely, but if these scenes are especially memorable or frequent, I think they might be confusing or even displace the ideals we're trying to encourage.    Because of this, I'd rather have stories with generally well-behaved heroes and heroines, than children who are constantly being told to do the right things for reasons that, to us, are ethically deficient.  Munro Leaf's book about good manners gets a thumbs down here, for similar reasons.

 

One could say that most children aren't ready for the highest levels of self-development, so you have to meet them where they are.   I think there's some truth to that, but in real life, we can respond dynamically in what seems like the best way at a given moment.   With literature -- being static and impersonal -- I think it's best to give the highest models, both to store in their memories, and in case the child is ready for them (and some are).   Again, with reference to Dabrowski, ongoing disintegration is not something we want to aim for.  I think certain "realistic" children's and YA books can contribute to that, because their protagonists are, frankly, usually stuck in immature and self-centered attitudes, even after whatever "enlightenment" they've had in the book.   (Of course, this isn't true across the board.  It's been a long time since I've read anything by Paul Zindel, but I seem to recall him being one of the exceptions.)

 

The above wouldn't apply so much if the books were selected for a certain child at a certain time, which starts to get into the realm of bibliotherapy.  I can see some uses for Cleary's books here.   In fact, she was a librarian who started writing the Henry Huggins books for a specific group of children, for whom she could come up with nothing:  friendly but somewhat tough older elementary boys, who evidently hadn't been raised with a love of the classics.  It was only later that she expanded down to younger children. 

 

For general reading, I guess I'd categorize this series with "Just William," though the latter are much more entertaining IMO.  :001_smile:

 

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These books show a true to life family with true to life ups and downs. The girls aren't say, as perfectly happy as the Aldens of the Boxcar Children. That is true. But who is? They love each other. But they behave as actual siblings and not some perfect ideal. Beverly Cleary really wrote some timeless classics with these books.

 

My boys both got into these at about age 5-6. We have them all on Audible and my younger son loves to listen to them.

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Beverly Cleary is 99 years old.  I'm not that old!  

 

Here's an interview with Beverly Cleary (scroll down):

 

http://waldina.com/2015/04/12/happy-99th-birthday-beverly-cleary/

 

 

My daughters have all read and enjoyed the Ramona, Henry, and Ralph books. If their behavior deteriorated after reading them, I didn't notice.  :001_rolleyes: 

 

Here's a kind of funny, totally unrelated anecdote to bring some levity to your evening:

 

The other day, one of my twins said something silly, I don't know, something along the lines of, "Is Poland next to South Africa?," and her sisters were sort of teasing her, but it was still on the loving side of things. She pretended to be upset, sighing profusely.

 

Me: What is it, Sweetie?

 

Her: Oh, nothing.... But IF we said "Shut up" in this family -- I realize we don't -- but IF we did, that is precisely what I would be saying now."

 

We all had a good laugh at that.

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One time (forgive me I do not know which book) Ramona is angry and wants to say the worst word she can think of and hollers out "GUTS"  So I guess we have copied her behavior and we often yell out, "GUTS" when something angers us. 

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My kids didn't copy Ramona's behavior.  If my reading the books to them had any effect, it was the discovery that Mom is able to understand and appreciate the feelings of an immature little girl.  If anything it enhanced the closeness and trust between us.  (This is probably not relevant if the kid is going to read it on her own.)

 

My kids read all sorts of books, including those dork diaries, Captain Underpants, Junie B. Jones, etc. as well as "good" / classic kids' lit.  Books don't change my kids' behavior one way or the other.  Videos, yes, but not books.

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IIRC, there was a thread about this a couple of years ago.   Like an earlier poster, we've chosen to avoid these until the children are older than the characters, so they can look back with a more mature perspective.   As it turns out, my eldest ones have reached that age, and it just hasn't come up.  We have far too many good books as is.

 

I do think there's a valid concern about young children, especially, getting ideas to "try out" new types of misbehavior.  Maybe mine are defective or something, but they have picked up some slang, name-calling, pranks, etc. from other children's books.    :tongue_smilie: There's also a bit of heavy subject matter in some books in this series, relating to adult problems that my little people have been largely sheltered from, though Ramona evidently wasn't (nor was I, as a public schooled child in the 70s). 

 

It's true that Cleary was going for realism -- she was one of the first American children's writers to take this approach -- and others who came after her took it much farther.   I think most parents are going to draw the line somewhere; it's just a matter of where.

 

For our family, realism also brings issues related to worldview.   With many authors, even when inappropriate behavior is corrected, it's presented in terms of utilitarian or purely social considerations, rather than with reference to some higher purpose -- e.g., see Dabrowski's levels.   This isn't something we'd try to avoid entirely, but if these scenes are especially memorable or frequent, I think they might be confusing or even displace the ideals we're trying to encourage.    Because of this, I'd rather have stories with generally well-behaved heroes and heroines, than children who are constantly being told to do the right things for reasons that, to us, are ethically deficient.  Munro Leaf's book about good manners gets a thumbs down here, for similar reasons.

 

One could say that most children aren't ready for the highest levels of self-development, so you have to meet them where they are.   I think there's some truth to that, but in real life, we can respond dynamically in what seems like the best way at a given moment.   With literature -- being static and impersonal -- I think it's best to give the highest models, both to store in their memories, and in case the child is ready for them (and some are).   Again, with reference to Dabrowski, ongoing disintegration is not something we want to aim for.  I think certain "realistic" children's and YA books can contribute to that, because their protagonists are, frankly, usually stuck in immature and self-centered attitudes, even after whatever "enlightenment" they've had in the book.   (Of course, this isn't true across the board.  It's been a long time since I've read anything by Paul Zindel, but I seem to recall him being one of the exceptions.)

 

The above wouldn't apply so much if the books were selected for a certain child at a certain time, which starts to get into the realm of bibliotherapy.  I can see some uses for Cleary's books here.   In fact, she was a librarian who started writing the Henry Huggins books for a specific group of children, for whom she could come up with nothing:  friendly but somewhat tough older elementary boys, who evidently hadn't been raised with a love of the classics.  It was only later that she expanded down to younger children. 

 

For general reading, I guess I'd categorize this series with "Just William," though the latter are much more entertaining IMO.  :001_smile:

Thanks for your post; I enjoyed reading it. I was reminded of a passage from Don Quixote which discusses the topic briefly. I'm certain even that wasn't the first time the subject appeared. This conversation has been going on for centuries... thanks for your contribution. 

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Censorship is a strong word. Is it censorship to steer our children to different books or to even not allow a certain book at a certain time?

 

Don't we all mull over curriculum choices, sometimes tossing books in the giveaway pile when we realize they're not a good fit? Is that censorship? Or is that discernment? Knowing the audience...

 

Deciding not to encourage or permit a child to read Ramona at a certain point in time doesn't necessarily mean the child's life will only consist of butterflies and rainbows, Leave it to Beaver and Pollyanna. It could just mean that at that moment, it's not the best choice – or even a good choice.

 

Fun, genuine, real, relateable...those are some traits of the Ramona books I'm seeing mentioned. Sometimes there is a false dichotomy presented between those characteristics and the classics. That's simply not the case. Nor is it the case that all classics, even those for children, are sparkly clean. The choice to read something instead of Ramona could come from myraid directions including vocabulary level and sentence structure. It could also be because different children struggle in different areas and would relate better to a different character. That doesn't mean the child is always well-behaved. Perhaps the mischief is just of another flavor.

 

As far as finding alternative bad words. Well, the classics are an excellent place to look! Even some children's classics. In fact, that's something I love about the classics. I started to post a sentence or two here from a classic, but the ^$^#(*@ needed was beyond my comfort level for the board. Never-the-less, I was once again impressed by the creativity involved.

 

It's good to be able to relate to a character in a book – not just with strengths, but with weaknesses as well. It doesn't necessarily need to happen in a modern setting, in a modern book, although it can. Preferences vary. For us, realizing someone who lived long ago and far away experienced the same struggles with being human is profound.

 

That doesn't mean it can't be funny, too. In the introduction to one edition of Don Quixote, Carole Slade relates a story:

 

King Philip III remarked of a student he spotted from his balcony bursting into fits of laughter while reading a book, “That student has either lost his wits or he is reading Don Quixote.†A courtier who went to investigate found that the young man was indeed reading Don Quixote.

 

I say that not to suggest Don Quixote as a replacement for Ramona, but to suggest the traits mentioned in the thread as being found in Ramona can be found elsewhere. Sometimes other characteristics are what attracts or repels one to or from the book.

 

There have been times when my daughter and I are reading Don Quixote and we are both breathless with laughter. Sometimes one of us will say, “But I do that!†The other responds, “Well, you shouldn't!†Laughter and learning are found in many, many books.

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Is it censorship to steer our children to different books or to even not allow a certain book at a certain time?

 

 

Yes, it is.

 

It's not necessarily an awful, evil thing, it might even a good or necessary thing for your family, but it is censoring your child's media consumption.

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Yes, it is.

 

It's not necessarily an awful, evil thing, it might even a good or necessary thing for your family, but it is censoring your child's media consumption.

One problem I have with using the word so freely is that it weakens it, robbing it of its power.

 

ETA: I'm a firm believer in censoring the use of the word censor. ;)

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I don't think anyone said kids MUST read Ramona.  I thought the question was whether Ramona should be "allowed" as a reading choice.  I assumed the OP meant a free reading choice vs. a required part of the curriculum.

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My kids read all sorts of books, including those dork diaries, Captain Underpants, Junie B. Jones, etc. as well as "good" / classic kids' lit.  Books don't change my kids' behavior one way or the other.  Videos, yes, but not books.

Just wondering - and this question is also for others who say books don't affect their children's behavior - do your children act out the things they've been reading about?

 

Mine seem to spend a lot of their playtime doing that.  This is the sort of response to literature Charlotte Mason describes, and we don't even follow her method in any intentional way, so I've been assuming it's the norm for children who read (or listen to) stories and have ample free time.  

 

I don't know if this has any connection to their occasional copying of behavior, good or bad, outside of playtime.   But as an adult, I'm impressed by the way they internalize the literature, then re-present it.  

 

Montessori also noticed this, and many of her elementary language arts exercises had the children "narrate" with their bodies.   Of course, her conclusions about child development were quite different from CM's.  But for both of them, the idea of complete absorption was central. 

 

Interesting stuff.   :001_smile:

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Acting out a story, even if you choose the part of the villain, is very different than taking on the character of a character in a story.  (The word "character" used two different ways!)   That said, I don't know that Ramona's character is all that heinous.  She is a normal child who is corrected by her parents and/or receives natural consequences in life and grows from it.  I think there is a lot of humility in recognizing our own similarities and need for correction and/or natural consequences.  

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Acting out a story, even if you choose the part of the villain, is very different than taking on the character of a character in a story.  (The word "character" used two different ways!)   That said, I don't know that Ramona's character is all that heinous.  She is a normal child who is corrected by her parents and/or receives natural consequences in life and grows from it.  I think there is a lot of humility in recognizing our own similarities and need for correction and/or natural consequences.  

That was part of my point above.  Children can learn from seeing other children being corrected (in literature, as in real life), but this becomes problematic if the way it's done is based on a different ethical system. 

 

Cleary's way of addressing these situations is quite different from our family's -- though admittedly not as different as, say, Judy Blume's.   Her worldview is shown implicitly through her adult characters, and more clearly in her memoir, My Own Two Feet.   I read that after deciding to hold off on the Ramona books, so it wasn't the reason for my decision, but it helped to clarify some things for me. 

 

And nobody has been using words such as "villain" or "heinous."  I think most people are trying to do good in some way, and that goes for the author as well as her characters.  That doesn't mean we have to agree with their choices, or choose to import their ideas into our young children's lives.   

 

 

ETA:  I can't remember a lot of specifics about the memoir, but wanted to add that I respect her for trying to be her own person, rather than just capitulating to social forces (which IIRC were pretty bleak).  Her experiences reminded me of those described by some authors from Depression-era Canada, such as Jean Little and Margaret Laurence.  And, as it happens, much as I want to like Little's children's books -- with their significant topics and often-neglected perspectives -- I have the same sort of issues with them. 

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Just wondering - and this question is also for others who say books don't affect their children's behavior - do your children act out the things they've been reading about?

 

Mine seem to spend a lot of their playtime doing that.  This is the sort of response to literature Charlotte Mason describes, and we don't even follow her method in any intentional way, so I've been assuming it's the norm for children who read (or listen to) stories and have ample free time.  

 

I don't know if this has any connection to their occasional copying of behavior, good or bad, outside of playtime.   But as an adult, I'm impressed by the way they internalize the literature, then re-present it.  

 

Montessori also noticed this, and many of her elementary language arts exercises had the children "narrate" with their bodies.   Of course, her conclusions about child development were quite different from CM's.  But for both of them, the idea of complete absorption was central. 

 

Interesting stuff.   :001_smile:

 

Yes, they incorporate ideas from books into their play, but it is clearly play.  It is not "attitude" or a deterioration of values.

 

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That was part of my point above.  Children can learn from seeing other children being corrected (in literature, as in real life), but this becomes problematic if the way it's done is based on a different ethical system. 

 

Cleary's way of addressing these situations is quite different from our family's -- though admittedly not as different as, say, Judy Blume's.   Her worldview is shown implicitly through her adult characters, and more clearly in her memoir, My Own Two Feet.   I read that after deciding to hold off on the Ramona books, so it wasn't the reason for my decision, but it helped to clarify some things for me. 

 

And nobody has been using words such as "villain" or "heinous."  I think most people are trying to do good in some way, and that goes for the author as well as her characters.  That doesn't mean we have to agree with their choices, or choose to import their ideas into our young children's lives.   

I was using the word "villain" as a category of character, a category that doesn't fit Ramona but is present in many books - with stories that might be acted out .  For example someone might act out the part of the witch in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  I don't think anyone would characterize her as anything other than the villain but she is rather crucial to the telling of the story.  In Ramona's case, she isn't a villain but some are thinking of her as a unsavory role model.  Heinous was hyperbole but my main point was in the next sentence where I said that I thought she was a normal little girl.  I felt like her family was a pretty normal family too.  My kids were always able to tell the difference between how our family handled things due to our faith and families that handled things simply because of a general secular morality.  There are a lot of things in common and some not.  This is the kind of thing our family has talked about - not in a heavy handed didactic way but simply as how we process things.  

 

Anyway, I have no problem if someone chooses to ban the book from their family's library.  We haven't (though my teens haven't been at the Ramona stage in many years).  I think we probably share much of the same worldview and still came to a different conclusion for our particular family.   

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That was part of my point above.  Children can learn from seeing other children being corrected (in literature, as in real life), but this becomes problematic if the way it's done is based on a different ethical system. 

 

Cleary's way of addressing these situations is quite different from our family's -- though admittedly not as different as, say, Judy Blume's.   Her worldview is shown implicitly through her adult characters, and more clearly in her memoir, My Own Two Feet.   I read that after deciding to hold off on the Ramona books, so it wasn't the reason for my decision, but it helped to clarify some things for me. 

 

And nobody has been using words such as "villain" or "heinous."  I think most people are trying to do good in some way, and that goes for the author as well as her characters.  That doesn't mean we have to agree with their choices, or choose to import their ideas into our young children's lives.   

 

 

ETA:  I can't remember a lot of specifics about the memoir, but wanted to add that I respect her for trying to be her own person, rather than just capitulating to social forces (which IIRC were pretty bleak).  Her experiences reminded me of those described by some authors from Depression-era Canada, such as Jean Little and Margaret Laurence.  And, as it happens, much as I want to like Little's children's books -- with their significant topics and often-neglected perspectives -- I have the same sort of issues with them. 

 

I don't want to say it's not your prerogative to make those decisions as a parent. Obviously it is. And I doubt any of us here would let our kids read something really inappropriate if they happened to find something truly pornographic at a young age on a shelf somewhere, so we're all censoring to some extent when kids are in the Ramona reading age.

 

But I think this is the exact attitude that I chafe against. I *want* my kids to read books that show them how different families deal with things and expose them to different ethical systems. And I especially want them to do it when they're young so that we can talk about it and I can help them think through that stuff. And in part because I think what I teach my kids will hold up. Though... and this is where I'm sure we're coming from very different perspective... also because I want them to be their own people and make their own decisions having seen and thought about the world around them. If they were to read a book and have it change their view... honestly, even if I didn't agree with it, that's sort of the highest purpose of literature - to sway you, to make you think. And doing it with something as low key as... well, I don't have any ethical differences with Ramona per se, but I'll give one where I do... the Wimpy Kid books... is good in my opinion. I'm glad they're doing that with stuff that's so simple right now.

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My kids were always able to tell the difference between how our family handled things due to our faith and families that handled things simply because of a general secular morality.  There are a lot of things in common and some not.  This is the kind of thing our family has talked about - not in a heavy handed didactic way but simply as how we process things.  

I think this is a great idea, but there are too many little bookworms in our house for me to keep up with all of their reading, so my main input comes from selecting books for the family shelves.   On a given day, my 7 year old might be reading B is for Betsy, or the children's Beowulf, or a guide to building outdoor fireplaces.  Hmm, never considered the potential for dangerous experiments with that one!   Fortunately we don't have a lot of bricks and stone lying around.   :laugh:

 

Anything that requires a bit more maturity (but is not heinous ;)) gets put in my office.  Ages 10+ have access for free reading, and I might read parts aloud to younger ones.  

 

Books that we consider inappropriate for children, but worth keeping for ~upper high school age, are catalogued and boxed up for now.   And this does include a great deal that conflicts with our family's worldview.  

 

I hope the children won't feel compelled to try to read the books that we consider unsuitable for their age, but even if they do, just the fact that they're formally separated is sort of a built-in commentary.   (When I was in junior high or so, my parents had an anthology of modern poetry that was declared Strictly Off Limits for Children -- but kept in full view -- and I eventually read it when they were out.  :001_rolleyes:   But I'm glad they made it clear that they didn't endorse my doing that.  Although, from a moral and spiritual perspective, the 60s protest poetry with "colorful language" was perhaps less objectionable than some late Victorian and Edwardian literature written in very proper English.)

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I don't want to say it's not your prerogative to make those decisions as a parent. Obviously it is. And I doubt any of us here would let our kids read something really inappropriate if they happened to find something truly pornographic at a young age on a shelf somewhere, so we're all censoring to some extent when kids are in the Ramona reading age.

 

:iagree:

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Though... and this is where I'm sure we're coming from very different perspective... also because I want them to be their own people and make their own decisions having seen and thought about the world around them.

It's interesting that you'd be sure that we differ greatly on that, especially after quoting the post in which I said I respected Beverly Cleary for trying to be her own person.   :001_smile:   If anything, I think we disagree more on this part:

 

And I especially want them to do it when they're young so that we can talk about it and I can help them think through that stuff. And in part because I think what I teach my kids will hold up.

 

It's precisely because "I think what I teach my kids will hold up" that I don't feel especially drawn toward having these kinds of discussions at an early age.   I'd like them to do the great majority of this thinking for themselves, and that won't really be possible until they're older.  The fullness of it might not even happen until after they've left home, since cognitive maturity apparently doesn't take place until age 24-ish.   Of course, we do discuss issues as they come up, but my preference is to have them build their thinking skills in the context of the best cultural models of truth, goodness, and beauty that we can find -- which, as I understand it, is the "classic" classical way. 

 

When adults put an emphasis on introducing and discussing conflicting value systems in the primary, or even middle grades -- at a time when they, as parents and teachers, have so much influence on these little minds and hearts -- this could actually be seen as more of an attempt to control the eventual outcome.   Not saying that's your intent, but humanly speaking, it seems inevitable.  I'm actually kind of alarmed, at times, by my influence over the children, as they ask me, "what about X?  is that right?" and look eagerly for my input.  I do my best, with prayer, but I am so not worthy. 

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I loved the Ramona series, but DD wasn't really into it. I read Beezus and Ramona to her when she was about 4, and she listened to Ramona's World on audio because the library had it at around 8, but never wanted to read them. She's always had an aversion to reading about "bad" (more like mischievous, but still) kids. She made me stop reading Seven Little Australians because the first chapter was too much for her. I read her Five Little Peppers when she was 7. She loved it. She'd probably love Elsie Dinsmore. Weird kid. Cute, but weird. 

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When adults put an emphasis on introducing and discussing conflicting value systems in the primary, or even middle grades -- at a time when they, as parents and teachers, have so much influence on these little minds and hearts -- this could actually be seen as more of an attempt to control the eventual outcome. Not saying that's your intent, but humanly speaking, it seems inevitable. I'm actually kind of alarmed, at times, by my influence over the children, as they ask me, "what about X? is that right?" and look eagerly for my input.

There are plenty of ways to have the conversation that doesn't involve me controlling the outcome and doesn't require the avoidance of these varying perspectices that it appears to me you suggest. When my kids ask me "is that right?" I answer, "Well, what do you think?" When they ask me about a certain thing (like a particular religious belief) we talk about what some people believe and again, "well, what do you think?" And, we can do all of this while leaving plenty of room for them to change their minds several times in the course of growing up. If they press, I can answer, "well I think this, but Grandma thinks this, and it's ok if you believe or think something different." My middle child says she's a Buddhist - I'm not even remotely that. She's 7, she'll probably change her mind, but it's ok if she doesn't.

 

I think the opportunity to read different perspectives on what it means to be human is essential to growing up, and I don't think the stakes are nearly as high as your post reads to me. I also think it's less about my kids getting the right answer and more about them being sensitive to the multiple perspectives that exist in a much bigger world than when I was growing up. I want them to be able to identify the humanity in others because I think that's essential to raising empathetic adults. Reading is one way to do that.

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ABSOLUTELY love the Ramona books. I'm trying to think of all of the "bad influences" referred to above - the antics in the books seem to be so true to experience that there's nothing bad. Language, maybe, but of the "you're stupid!" type that we'd not entered when we started listening to them.

 

Ramona is such a beautifully crafted character. Her development through the entire book series is genuine. The books are so real. We love to do them as read-alounds and will revisit them as the little kids grow, which is such a gift because there are so many lessons to take at different ages.

Love the way you put this!
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I loved Ramona as a kid because she seemed very real and had feelings and situations I could imagine being in. I also really liked that her family is lower middle class, and struggles to have jobs, put food on the table, etc. There's no real poverty or anything, but I identified with a book about a girl whose family had to count their pennies and be careful, especially since so many book characters for kids seem to have unlimited funds. I loved these books and they meant a lot to me. I think the relationship between the girls is a good teaching tool- they do unkind things to each other, but then they learn how harmful their behavior can be, and how to be kinder. 

 

Yup, exactly. This was why I also really liked the Trixie Belden books as a kid, versus Nancy Drew. The Trixie Belden ones were just so much more "real". 

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I read these as a child in the 80's and I loved that they were set in a different era. At least the first few books- the later books seemed much more modern, actually. The Louis Darling illustrations really captured the time for me. I am reading them to 6 yo DD and she is howling with laughter over Ramona's antics and empathizing with her confusion at school (Ramona is told to "sit for the present" and she sits...and sits...). Ramona is far from perfect and that's what makes her so endearing and relatable. I have been looking forward to reading these aloud and they haven't disappointed!

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When adults put an emphasis on introducing and discussing conflicting value systems in the primary, or even middle grades -- at a time when they, as parents and teachers, have so much influence on these little minds and hearts -- this could actually be seen as more of an attempt to control the eventual outcome. Not saying that's your intent, but humanly speaking, it seems inevitable. I'm actually kind of alarmed, at times, by my influence over the children, as they ask me, "what about X? is that right?" and look eagerly for my input. I do my best, with prayer, but I am so not worthy.

Like Mamaraby said above, it really doesn't have to be. There are two elements here - one, that I think those young kids have a lot more going on in their minds than you're giving credit for - they're forming their opinions already, whether I talk to them or not. And by the time they're teens, many of those beliefs will be deeply ingrained. I say this not just as my observation having worked with kids, but also thinking about studies about children's attitudes about things like race or religion. So I'm going to talk to them. But secondly, I am definitely coming at this with a more open view of the world - my kids can have different beliefs about God or politics or ethical questions. Sharing what I think is important to me, but also saying, from a young age, you can disagree, you may see it differently, other people don't think so. My main goal is to be laying the groundwork for those conversations as a fundamental part of my relationship with them, not as something that will start at some later age.

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Like Mamaraby said above, it really doesn't have to be. There are two elements here - one, that I think those young kids have a lot more going on in their minds than you're giving credit for - they're forming their opinions already, whether I talk to them or not. And by the time they're teens, many of those beliefs will be deeply ingrained. I say this not just as my observation having worked with kids, but also thinking about studies about children's attitudes about things like race or religion. So I'm going to talk to them. But secondly, I am definitely coming at this with a more open view of the world - my kids can have different beliefs about God or politics or ethical questions. Sharing what I think is important to me, but also saying, from a young age, you can disagree, you may see it differently, other people don't think so. My main goal is to be laying the groundwork for those conversations as a fundamental part of my relationship with them, not as something that will start at some later age.

I do think that they have plenty going on in their minds.   We just disagree about how best to support this.   And also about whether or not it's really possible to take a neutral approach to discussing ethical questions with children, if one wants to do that.  (As I see it, even mentioning "what family members believe" is already a powerful influence, even if it's not meant to be.)  

 

TBH, and not meaning this in a snarky way, saying that my approach "chafes" really doesn't come across to me as an "open view of the world."    It seems quite likely that the majority of parents in the world today have attitudes similar to mine on child-rearing, even if they don't share our family's particular views.   But maybe you'd be okay with your children having the same beliefs that you find intensely bothersome in other parents.   I don't even mind when the baby throws up on me, and I know I wouldn't be happy with other adults doing that.  ;)

 

Anyway, best wishes.   I always enjoy your posts, and as with Jean in Newcastle, I suspect that we have more in common than not.    :001_smile:

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I read the Mandie books growing up and loved them. When I was older I re-read one and couldn't believe how is overlooked how self centered and badly written they were! I did the same thing with Elsie Dinsmore. I do like the books about Elsie's cousin Millie though.

 

My 6 yo DD just LOVES Ramona and went through a phase where she listened to the audiobooks non-stop! She has now taken to reading them at night before she goes to bed. If I had a child who was prone to trying mischievous things they heard I might be careful but my DD doesn't and she thinks Ramona is so funny.

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There is a special place in my heart for Ramona.  I read the books over and over myself and was thrilled when my kids loved them as much as I did.  We bought all the Ramona books on audiobook when Audible had a big children's book sale last year.  My 6 yo listens to them (and Socks) over and over and over. 

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We have listened to all of Ramona and Henry Huggins over and over. My kids and I love them. They are so genuine, and I agree with a previous comment that sibling rivalry and neighborhood challenges are always resolved in a healthy way. Love them. Possibly my favorite children's author.

 

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