'Junk' books can help form good reading habits

Think About It

November 10, 1999

Jim Trelease, author of "The Read-Aloud Handbook," explores the importance of "junk" fiction when choosing books for your child's library.

Try to resist an elitist approach in which you offer only the best, he advises parents. One of the patterns that continues to surface in research is the important role that 'junk' fiction plays in forming lifetime readers. By 'junk,' I mean formula fiction such as Nancy Drew and comic books.

Carlsen and Sherrill's massive study of lifetime readers, 'Voices of Readers,' showed a preponderance of such books in college students' childhoods. For 40 years, the literary and library gatekeepers attempted to ban series as 'worthless, sordid, sensational, trashy and harmful' and 'the menace to good reading.'

But as hard as the adults resisted Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, the Five Little Peppers, the international Twins series and the Oz books, children took them to their hearts.

These books were filling a need for nonthreatening, immediately accessible reading.

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