Monday, August 6, 2007

Junie B. Jones controversial?

Junie B. Jones (for those of you who don't have young ones currently in your lives) is a character by Barbara Parks in a series of books for first and second graders. Junie is in kindergarten and first grade as the series progresses. Well, anyway, I read an article in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday about these books and was blown away.

It seems that this series is one of the ones that is most frequently challenged in public libraries. Apparently, there are parents who are offended by Junie's improper use of language.

I have always read aloud a book, or two, from this series to my students. I have probably heard every book either from a student reader or from the audio versions my own daughter listened to all last summer as we drove on vacation. I have never had anyone complain about them.

Yes, she talks like a child but that's why kids like her. I guess I've never expected books to be perfect models of any language. Some of my favorite books use dialect and slang to create their sense of time and place. I'm thinking of the work of William Faulkner and To Kill a Mockingbird. I do agree that Junie is annoying and makes poor choices in the stories, but that gives me things to discuss with the kids. They know she behaves poorly, and, I think, they know not to do some of the things she does.

I wonder what anyone else thinks of this one. Does her inaccurate use of language bother you? Have you read them to, or with, a child? How do you feel as a parent or reader about this?

Thanks for any responses. I'm really thinking about this before the new school year starts because I normally start the year with a Junie novel.


valentina said...

Funny cause I was looking at them yesterday in the shop and thought,hmm might read them. (cause the cover said that Madonna's daughter loves them :P). they didn't look offensive to me, but haven't read them really.

BookGal said...

Valentina: I'll bet my students don't even know who Madonna is. I'll have to laugh. Thanks for visiting.

pussreboots said...

These must be parents with no sense of humor. Junie B. Jones is my son's age and she talks just like him and his friends. There was nothing offensive in the book that I read. I've been meaning to read more in the series but haven't gotten around to it.

BookGal said...

Thanks Puss ...the more I think about it the more that makes sense.

John Mutford said...

"but that gives me things to discuss with the kids"- Well said. I think that's the key. I don't know if it's the age of television babysitting or what, but it's almost like people don't want to talk to their kids anymore. I'm not saying of course that we should all read Misery to our kids or anything as long as we plan on discussing it after, but I think poor choices and improper use of language would be the perfect conversation starter. Lately my daughter's taken with Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit. There's a few times when some character remarks that the rabbit is stupid or his hat is ugly. We discuss that they aren't using nice words, how he must feel, and move on. If parents (or teachers) don't want to discuss what their kids read, I wonder how they feel about some of the old fairy tales and nursery rhymes!

BookGal said...

John: I couln't agree more. As a matter of fact, my students will interrupt me to point out mistakes Junie makes. That creates a number of ways to teach grammar!