Childish Minds

I thought it was interesting how Carroll showed his childish mind in one of his quotes in the book:

`When I’M a Duchess,’ she said to herself, (not in a very hopeful tone though), `I won’t have any pepper in my kitchen AT ALL. Soup does very well without–Maybe it’s always pepper that makes people hot-tempered,’ she went on, very much pleased at having found out a new kind of rule, `and vinegar that makes them sour–and camomile that makes them bitter–and–and barley-sugar and such things that make children sweet-tempered. I only wish people knew that: then they wouldn’t be so stingy about it, you know–‘

First, is she not a duchess already?

Second I thought that the way he made linked pepper and hot-tempered was very witty and funny. She herself was an example of pepper and being hot-tempered.

My last questions for this post (there’s a lot ;):  What constitutes as a children’s book?

When we read a book, how do we know if that book is too young for us, or not “cool” enough for us (teenagers) to read? Is there a limit on how childish a book is when read by a teenager? Why don’t teenagers read children’s books? Why is there a genre called children’s, when you go to the library? Why are books “segregated” between adults, young teens, and children’s? Is it not appropriate for me to pick a Thomas the Tank Engine book? Do you consider it “uncool” if I were to pick up a Thomas the Tank Engine book?

Published in: on November 15, 2009 at 22:02  Comments (35)  

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  1. As an educator I find your question “Why don’t teenagers read children’s books?” a great discussion starter.

    Many of the points brought up in previous comments do reflect perceptions and impressions by many people.

    However, in my opinion, it is far less about the “cool factor’ than it is about the peers and company you keep. I think the perception when you read a book that is either below or above your “age genre” is more often judged by perception.

    Small example:

    Student A: loves Twilight by Stefanie Meyer (at the time only book in series released) she reads it and quickly gobbles up the sequel and threequel (is that even a word?) While waiting for book four, she is now a senior in high school, but eagerly awaiting the next and supposed final book of this series she’s been hooked on for over a year. Meanwhile, her little sister and immature friends four years younger have now “read” the books and are also fanatic. Now it is much harder for Student A to get into the book and proclaim how much she loves it because the last thing she wants is to be associated with those little girls that are reading it.

    Take it a step further and we see that she now again a year later dreads the movie version and refuses to see it or the sequel in the movie theater…again because of the association of those “annoying girls with their moms.”

    On the surface what we read is a personal reflection of what we want, but take a look at any educators blog (boring but its the world I know) and we all want to share what we are reading…why? Because, it connects us most likely to our peers and fellow educators who engage in similar conversations or perspectives.

    At least that’s my perception…

  2. I get the feeling people would still read children’s books if it weren’t for the “cool” factor. I’m sure a lot of people remember loving Pokemon and then telling everybody you didn’t play the Pokemon games… but you really did. If you’ve seen The Blind Side, the main character is completely fine with listening to his adopted mother read a kids book, he isn’t worried about appearance. Kids books are still books, but society has corrupted us and taught us kid books are kid books, not books. Appearences are important to people now. I get the feeling when the book was written that appearances weren’t as much. The current era is all about social standing, but back when this book was written, a kids book was still a book. I think the book segregation is just something society imposed on books, and it stuck.

  3. I do think there is some unwritten law that we should not pick up a children’s book. Clearly Mr. Long is a criminal when it comes to this rule. I do not agree with this unwritten law and I think that is why Mr. Long is having us read about Alice and her adventure. He is breaking the barrier and so should we. Books should not be segregated, like you said. We all should read, no matter how low the reading level is.

    • Why do people still segregate? If there is no point to segregate, then why do we do it? Yes it is unwritten law, but who made it?

      • I have no answer for you on why we segregate, but we still do it with almost everything. It is probably caused by fear; fear of the unknown. If one does not understand something, then we automatically become afraid of it. Not scared as in horror movie scared, but scared as in intimidated.

        The law was never made, but it evolved into what it is now. Society created it because of the segregation.

      • Why are we scared of a book? Why are we afraid of a childrens book?

      • Hagen, those are great thoughts. Alex, I don’t think you are scared of the book. Perhaps teens are scared of their peers thinking that they are childish or uncool if they see them reading a “children’s book”?

        Adults are not afraid to read children’s books because they are firmly established in their identity as adults. Teens, on the other hand, are in transition, moving back and forth. Do you think the fear might be related to that?

      • I do think that fear is related to that. I would feel, as you put it, uncool to read a book that was meant for children. That is where our fear as teenagers is derived from. Peer pressure and wanting to ‘fit in’ have molded us into thinking that we are not supposed to read children’s books.

    • So, Hagen, what are you going to do about that fear? Just give in to it?

      • That is what most of us do. Here is the link to my new blog, which is a continuation of this blog.

      • Well, I guess in public I will give in to it, but behind closed doors you never know. If alone maybe I will read children’s books, but society would frown on me. I would fit in for everyone to see, but alone I would become the rebel.

  4. When I first thought about your question I thought that if the story teaches a lesson in a cute and funny way then it’s a children’s book. But then again don’t all books? Whether they’re for children or not? And I actually can’t think of a lesson that this book teaches. Except for what the Duchess says. But those aren’t necessarily lessons the book teaches with experience, like Little Red Riding Hood, or the story about the Gingerbread House. But it isn’t hard to seperate a children’s book from a novel. Just look at the cover. Sometimes it can tell you a lot.

  5. Oops, Alex, I didn’t answer your question about what “being mature” would be. Off the top of my head, I would say that a mature person takes responsibility for their own choices and takes other people’s needs into account when making their decisions.

    What do you think?

    • I honestly don’t have a meaning for it, but just a feeling I get around a person. It can’t be spoken for me, but only felt.

  6. Alex,

    The thought of fifty years in school is quite terrifying ;-). You are right. Anyway, who gets to decide what “maturity” is? It means different things for different people.

    Maybe there should be a maximum age for graduating, but no minimum?

    • If there is a maximum. what would be the maximum, and what about somebody who is a little bit slower (Not to be mean). What happens to them, do they get their own school system? What is a logical system? How do we live without rules and system? It just doesn’t seem fair in many ways… and yes life isn’t fair, but why can’t somethings be changed to allow things to be fair. I mean its not their fault.

      • Right now, where I live in Manitoba, the maximum for going to high school normally is 21. After that you have to go to an Adult Ed school. People take as long as they need – sometimes they drop out when they are teenagers and then go back when they get their head together.

        Yes, there probably should be some kind of system – but who gets to decide? Right now I’m arguing with someone who is OK with her 8 y/o playing Halo in school. What do you think?

      • Take as long as they need? So they never really join society?

        Yes who gets decide? Is that not the governments job? I went to England and they have jobs for those with disabilities. A blind person would sell tickets (I forget what kind), why do we not have that, and get paid, its their job. The government can make it fair, but they choose to fumble around in Afghanistan. Isn’t our government supposed to be then the rest of the world’s, but yet it crumbles were others thrive.

        Ok so maybe this child is not mature enough, I too play video games, but I do know education first. Thats very interesting I didn’t start playing until 13 maybe. I didn’t get halo until I was maybe 14 or 15.

        I’m sure you have already, but in your place I would explain the consequences. Explain how if he plays too much his grades will suffer and then he will be held back. It also depends on the students grades. So let him play for a while until he begins to fail (I know cruel). Show his mom, prove he should not play during the day. Let the boy and parent suffer, they need to know that everything has a consequence. But keep in mind my opinion is a fifteen year olds. So I might sound barbaric, but I find learning easier when doing.

        I guess this is the case where the student SHOULD get held back.

      • Maybe you should show her this blog. 😉

      • Thanks for your response, Alex! I don’t think the 8 y/o’s grades are suffering because he plays Halo … I just wonder whether that is too graphic for a little kid.

      • It is very graphic, that’s why I had to wait so long to get it. I remember one of my friends got the game at that age and had to have his dad play with him because he was scared. It depends on the person, if he sleeps fine and doesn’t randomly stand up and start shooting a fake gun, then it might be OK. He shouldn’t have that game. It is too much for a child.

  7. During the particular scene the Duchess was describing I pictured her as a some what evil old lady with a temper and little respect for other people. But in the scene where she was describing the chaotic happenings I pictured her as a sweet fun loving, wise older lady that wasn’t afraid to admit she too gets ill tempered sometimes. It was actually refreshing to be able to think of her in a more pleasant way.

    As for the other questions:

    I don’t believe anyone is too old to read children’s books, but I feel the reason they are initially characterised as children’s books is at a first glance they would seem to please children first. Most adults think that if there are bright colors and pictures then it must only be for children, or there is no way for something of that nature to entertain them. In reality, I believe any book could be entertaining if you have the ability to relate it to yourself, or have the imagination to change the story into something more pleasing.

    • Taylor,

      I must admit that I have *never* thought of the Duchess that way. Good for you.

  8. Interesting thoughts and questions, Alex. I definitely think there is something that constitutes as a children’s book and material that is too mature for certain ages. Children and adults are two totally different things. For example, consider movies. There are ratings for a reason because children are simply too small to handle the adult material in PG-13 and R rated movies. I believe if you are old enough, you are never too old to read a book as long as you enjoy it. Books are there for pleasure anyway, are they not? The debate on whether you are “cool” or not is something that should be disregarded. People need to worry less about what others think about them because it should not matter. If they live their lives that way they will ALWAYS be worrying about what others think of them and will not be able to just enjoy everything they enjoy doing.

  9. Hadass, you bring up an interesting point. Are you saying that if you are say 9 years old, and have an interst in flying, that you should go to school with everyone interested in flying no matter what their age? Can a 9 year old learn/understand the same material as a high school student? Why do you suppose schools group students by their age and not interest? I wonder what would happen if we let kids group themselves…being given choices is a powerfu tool!

    As for the original poster, my feeling is that there needs to be some method of classifying reading material to give people some idea of the difficulty of the content. You would not call a chemisty book a “children’s” book and you would not call Thomas the Tank Engine an “adult” book. However, there is NOTHING wrong with either the child or the adult reading each others books! As for a book being “too old” or “too young”…I will NEVER be too old to read “Little Bear” or “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile” and get enjoyment out of it. I encourage my4th grade kids to read “Childrens” books all the time…they LOVE them.

    Allison Bzdafka
    4th Grade Teacher

    • Allie, thanks for the response! Yes, I do believe that a 9 y/o who is fascinated by flying could study with other people who are interested in flying. Maybe not 18 y/o’s (that would be an interesting discussion, figuring out those criteria!) but maybe with 12 y/o’s and 7 y/o’s? One-room schoolhouse comes to mind … before the factory school model was implemented in the 19th century. Bells ringing, cohorts of widgets, I mean students … there’s got to be a better way.

      I would be a little careful what adult books children were allowed to read, but I certainly see no problem with going the other way and reading “younger” books. I LOVE Alice!

      Hadass, high school math and science teacher (sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier!)

    • What you bring up with the nine year old is what I don’t understand. We go through a roundabout education of all the subject, but if I know what I want to be, by say the age 12. Why can I not start my education for that profession? As for the others they keep going through the regular class, until they find a profession. It reminds me of the old apprenticeship system. Why can’t a child be educated about the many jobs and then, select their profession, and the automatically start that profession in an apprenticeship?

      • That is certainly the way things were before the factory school model was introduced. Kids would become apprentices in a guild, often in the same profession as their parents.

        Sounds like something worth investigating! 😉

      • But why did we change, was that system not working? I mean I want to be a doctor, would you not trust me more if I studied medicine ever since I was 12 or if I started at the age of 20?

  10. I love Thomas the Tank Engine. I like how you ask what makes a children’s book, a children’s book.

    IS there some book out that gives the classification of what is what and what things may and may not be? We get big heads as we get older and decide that certain things are “uncool” because well, we’re teenagers now. But honestly what is wrong with watching a little Dragon Tales or Magic School Bus every now and then? I do not know what you mean about the duchess , but I like your point about the hot tempered and pepper. Long Live Cartoons.

    • Brittany, why would you let some book decide for you what may or may not be? Pick up a book, look at the back, read the flaps, and decide for yourself!

  11. Wow, interesting thoughts on the segregation of books! I think it goes back to the way society in general is stratified – don’t you think it is kind of silly that all the kids in your grade are the same age? It might make more sense to people to learn together based on interests and maturity, not chronological age. What do you think?

    Small point – the person talking in your quote is Alice, not the Duchess. That’s why she is not very hopeful of becoming one herself.

    Love your blogs!

    • I agree, the kids in our grade do not need to be the same age. I have many friends that are older than me, most of whom are seniors. On the other hand I think it will be unfair. People who are older, who may not be as mature will have to be in a younger grade, which means they fall behind in life. They go to college at a later year, they “join” society at a later age then everyone else. So maybe some things should be left segregated.

      • Alex, if people are less mature, maybe it is better for them to wait before they “join society”? Maybe they should stay in the safety of childhood a little bit longer, until they are ready.

        Thanks so much for making me think about these things!

      • But we only live so long. What happens if you spend fifty years in school, because you don’t pass the “maturity” test. What if being less mature is what makes your personality?

        What is being mature in your opinion?

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