Updated: Nov 10, 2020
I read a discussion topic on Good Reads a few years ago about the importance of grammar and spelling in books, namely children’s books. Here is an excerpt:
“Regarding proper grammar and spelling, some could argue that as long as children are reading, grammar and spelling are not important in books targeted towards them. Some might (and I believe have) argue(d) that proper spelling is not important as long as the first and last letter of the word is correct. The reason I brought up the proper grammar and spelling in kids' books question is because today I saw a kid reading a Junie B. Jones book. Junie B. Jones is a fun series targeted for young readers, K - 2nd or 3rd grade. It's pretty popular among girls, and even boys. I first learned of this nearly 10 years ago when I was tutoring in an elementary school. The kids LOVED this series, and wanted the books to be read to them. I HATED it. I hated reading a Junie B. Jones book to them. Why? Because there was improper grammar and spelling which I believe was done intentionally to imitate the voice and style of a young reader. I found myself stumbling over misspelled words as I read aloud.”
At the end of this woman's well-deserved rant she asked if readers agree or disagree that "putting these common spelling and grammar errors in a book reinforce[s] the errors in the kids' minds?
I agree wholeheartedly! Reading books with errors such as the ones I'm about to show you will absolutely reinforce the errors in a child's mind.
I looked up Junie B. Jones and found that on Amazon you can look inside her books, so I read an excerpt of Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl. On the top of the second page is the word runned. (That red squiggly line underneath runned is driving me nuts!) Some people would say that the word runned is fine because kids can relate; however, aren't we supposed to be setting an example for our children, teaching them what's right and what's wrong? If our kids learn to read books that have mistakes like runned in them, they may think that those mistakes are not mistakes at all, but rather the proper way in which to speak. Gasp! On page 5 of another Junie B. Jones book titled Junie B. Jones #28: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) is, “Mr. Scary did a frown at him." You see it, right? You know what’s wrong with that sentence. It should simply read, “Mr. Scary frowned at him.” Kids will understand the sentence when it is correct, and they will learn to speak and write correctly, too. On the same page of the above-mentioned book it reads, "Mr. Scary stood there a minute. Then, all of a sudden, a smile came on his face." I'm sure some children speak this way, but we are trying to educate our youth, not confuse them. That last one just gives me chills.
There are a few ways to rephrase this sentence, such as, "Then, all of a sudden, he smiled." See? Super simple, and completely understandable to a young child. And not creepy to mom and dad.
One could argue that since the Junie B. Jones books are told in the first person, they need to sound believable to a child. I understand that completely. The books may take on a different tone if told in the third person.
With that said, let's look at these kinds of books from another perspective:
In my opinion, Junie B. Jones books could be used as educational tools, what-not-to-do resources perhaps. Let's say you're reading to your child before bed and little Mila wants you to read her a Junie B. Jones book. As a parent you notice the misspelled words, the grammar mistakes, and so on. What do you do if your child loves these books but they make you cringe? Make story time fun by correcting the errors in humorous, yet creative ways as you read to your kiddo:
Mila's mother begins to read where they left off last night. "Then, all of a sudden, my boyfriend named Ricardo runned right past me." Mila's mother stops reading for a moment and says, "Wait a minute." She puts her finger to her chin, deep in thought. "Is runned the right word there? Hmmmmm," she ponders, stealing a quick glance at Mila.
"Nooooo," replies Mila, giggling. "It's ran!"
Mila's mother has read this book and others like it to her daughter before, so Mila knows that ran is the proper word to use in this sentence. And it goes on this way with every Junie B. Jones book that Mila's mother reads to her.