I took a break from blogging. Grad classes have lots of reading and writing, which are hard to do when it’s not naptime or bedtime. I decided not to return to teaching this fall so that I can be home full time with my adorable daughter, and yet I’m still busy. I’m determined to write more though; and so I find myself back at the blog. Here we go...
I read an interesting blog post (read it here) this week about teaching reading through the classics. It was good. It described how important it is to read to your children above their level so their vocabulary is expanded. I totally agree and credit Cora’s large vocabulary to the massive (for a two year old) amount of books we read every day.
One of the book recommendations caught my eye, especially because it is one we have out of the library right now. Curious George by H. A. Rey. The original. The first one written. Unabridged. Do you know the story? It’s about a curious little monkey who lives with the man with the yellow hat, right? Hmm, sort of. See the book opens on George eating a banana in his natural habitat, the jungle, then the man with the yellow hat enters with rifle slung over his shoulder and decides George is cute and that he wants him. The man with the yellow hat tricks George and into the bag he goes. On the boat ride to the big ship the book even mentions that George was sad.
Then there’s the pipe smoking. The man with the yellow hat smokes a pipe. The sailors smoke pipes. George smokes a pipe! That’s right, Curious George smokes a pipe after having dinner complete with wine (though I suppose the glass could have been the man with the yellow hat’s, but even then...).
Move on to the telephone scene. Why is the man with the yellow hat calling the zoo? Is he selling George? Does he go around collecting animals from remote parts of the world to sell them to the highest bidder? You never know. But George is ever curious and plays with the phone, accidentally calling the fire department. When they realize there is no fire the fireman go berserk. A fat fireman and a thin fireman catch George (I guess it’s teaching kids opposites). So kids, what do you think the punishment is for accidentally calling the fire department? A stern talking to? A slap on the hand? A fine? Nope. Prison. George is thrown in prison. But it’s okay, because he escapes when the big and heavy prison guard tips over the bench. The rest of the book includes a misadventure with balloons, but nothing too bad, until George is reunited with his ‘friend’ the man with the yellow hat who takes him off to the zoo.
My how times have changed. First copyrighted in 1941 the Curious George franchise has changed a lot over the years. It is more politically correct, not pointing out the girth of fireman or portraying the man with the yellow hat as an imperialist. The books are shorter too. Older children’s books like this one are much longer and wordier than their modern counterparts. (This book for example might be split into three books: Curious George is Abducted, Curious George goes to Prison and Curious George is Scared of Heights.) In all seriousness, I don’t think the trend of shorter, simpler books helps our children, and I think it can hurt them. Longer, wordier books aren’t always appropriate, but they are needed to expand the child’s vocabulary and to grow his concentration. If only short books are read to the child, how will he learn to sit and listen to longer books?
I am not against this book. It’s weird and strange, but I will not stop reading it to my child, nor will I abridge or modify as I am reading. At this point, she is not asking questions about what is going on. Someday she might, and then I hope we can talk about how times have changed.