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What is your opinion on "fluff" books?

post #1 of 136
Thread Starter 
I have always been of the opinion that a bit of brain candy can be a good thing if it keeps a child happy/excited about books and reading in general. I do try to make sure that my children are exposed to a variety of good literature but occasionally we read something that I am sure Charlotte Mason would disapprove of LOL...right now I am reading the first Spider Riders book "Shards of the Oracle" to DS because DH introduced him to the TV show and he loved it so much that when DH picked up the books he really wanted to read those too.

It is by far the most "advanced" book in terms of reading level that we have ever read together (it is aimed at a grade 4 to 6 age group) and yet it is total fluff...rather exciting though and DS loves it. It falls into the scary in a thrilling way rather than a frightening way for him and he seems to delight in being on the edge of his seat (he has gone so far as to attempt to negotiate more than a chapter a day LOL but I am always too tired at the end of the day for more than one chapter).

The vast majority of the books we read are quality so I figure a bit of brain candy in the diet won't cause any lasting ill effects right?

Steph
post #2 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by tuffykenwell View Post
I have always been of the opinion that a bit of brain candy can be a good thing if it keeps a child happy/excited about books and reading in general. I do try to make sure that my children are exposed to a variety of good literature but occasionally we read something that I am sure Charlotte Mason would disapprove of LOL...right now I am reading the first Spider Riders book "Shards of the Oracle" to DS because DH introduced him to the TV show and he loved it so much that when DH picked up the books he really wanted to read those too.

It is by far the most "advanced" book in terms of reading level that we have ever read together (it is aimed at a grade 4 to 6 age group) and yet it is total fluff...rather exciting though and DS loves it. It falls into the scary in a thrilling way rather than a frightening way for him and he seems to delight in being on the edge of his seat (he has gone so far as to attempt to negotiate more than a chapter a day LOL but I am always too tired at the end of the day for more than one chapter).

The vast majority of the books we read are quality so I figure a bit of brain candy in the diet won't cause any lasting ill effects right?

Steph

I don't know ...I feel two ways about brain candy.

On the one hand, my mom allowed me to read whatever I wanted without restriction when I was a kid. I read a great deal of brain candy -- and as of now, I really regret the time that I spent reading it, especially the crap that I read in junior high and high school (Jacqueline Susann? V.C. Andrews? What was I thinking? Not much!)
post #3 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by tuffykenwell View Post
The vast majority of the books we read are quality so I figure a bit of brain candy in the diet won't cause any lasting ill effects right?
Right!

And, after all, the printed word has lots of purposes - not just to "educate" or "inspire." If a child is delighting in the experience of being a little scared or thrilled, and that happens to come in the form of having printed words read to him, what the heck...

- Lillian
post #4 of 136
I currently feel relieved when my driven perfectionistic 6 year old wants to do something pointless. Anything pointless. Big fans of Cap'n Underpants here...
post #5 of 136
Brain Candy? Hmmmm, every brain needs a treat. I don't even get what the issue is? And, as far as lasting effects, well, I certainly hope it will have some! Reading solely for entertainment comes to mind. And, the wonderful memories of enjoyable reading as a child cannot be dismissed. Which will lead to even more interest as an adult. And, of course, appreciation of the person who facilitated the fun!

You are fine. You definitely should read what your child wants. It shows your child that you care about their interests. Which inspires them to expand their horizons and possibly even care about what you would like them to read. Kwim?
post #6 of 136
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post #7 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meg Murry. View Post
(Jacqueline Susann? V.C. Andrews? What was I thinking? Not much!)
I think Valley of the Dolls is Rain's current favorite book, and I introduced her to V.C. Andrews on a recent plane trip... not at all well-written, but good fluff. Did you also read Stephen King? That's her third current love.

I think it's fine, obviously. I still have fond feelings about a lot of the fluff I used to read (that's why I grabbed My Sweet Audrina at the thrift store).

dar
post #8 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by chfriend View Post
I currently feel relieved when my driven perfectionistic 6 year old wants to do something pointless. Anything pointless. Big fans of Cap'n Underpants here...
My nephew loves these books!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dar View Post
I think Valley of the Dolls is Rain's current favorite book, and I introduced her to V.C. Andrews on a recent plane trip... not at all well-written, but good fluff. Did you also read Stephen King? That's her third current love.

I think it's fine, obviously. I still have fond feelings about a lot of the fluff I used to read (that's why I grabbed My Sweet Audrina at the thrift store).

dar
I loved VC Andrews when I was in high school. Stephen King, too. Picture me, a small, mousy, quiet & obedient member of the Christian Club, walking through the halls with Pet Sematary atop my Trapper Keeper. :

I have never read Valley of the Dolls, but I think I should. I think brain candy is fine, for kids AND adults!

(I should mention I am currently rereading The Stand. :
post #9 of 136
I'm also of two minds.

On one hand... my DS's reading fluency has greatly increased due to his interest in Star Wars readers and Garfield comic books. He is motivated to read only when he is interested in the subject matter.

On the other hand... I, personally, DETEST the fluffy, TV character story books that my kids pick out at the library every week. The writing is bad, the stories aren't interesting. In general, it's just marketing for the brand. So I do limit those kind of stories- I allow my kids to choose 1 'character' book each week. And I do realize that I'm being selfish here.

So, for me, I guess it comes down to who is going to be reading the book. I'm against 'brain candy' (in the form of commercial tie-in books) if *I* have to read the book to my kids. If my kids can read it on their own, I don't have any objections.
post #10 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by shaywyn View Post
Brain Candy? Hmmmm, every brain needs a treat. I don't even get what the issue is? And, as far as lasting effects, well, I certainly hope it will have some! Reading solely for entertainment comes to mind. And, the wonderful memories of enjoyable reading as a child cannot be dismissed. Which will lead to even more interest as an adult. And, of course, appreciation of the person who facilitated the fun!

You are fine. You definitely should read what your child wants. It shows your child that you care about their interests. Which inspires them to expand their horizons and possibly even care about what you would like them to read. Kwim?
I like this. I think reading for entertainment and time with a beloved adult or another child is wonderful. I think you will both cherish the memories.

I read more Sidney Sheldon than I care to admit Rage of Angels is one of my favorite books I also loved VC Andrews for awhile. Ellie has always read a variety of books... every Thoroughbred book under the sun and is now reading Little Women.
post #11 of 136
I've never really put books into fluff and non fluff categories. I mean obviously there are subject matter and tone differences between To Kill a Mockingbird and Calvin and Hobbes, but whatever the kids are interested in is cool with me.

My Ds just finished reading a fantasyish book in 2 days, and before that he was into Stone Soup comics and a book about a zombie war. We all just read whatever the heck we want lol.
post #12 of 136
I think that any book that holds a child's interest is a good book! It's gotta be better than watching TV, right?

There's so much to learn from "fluff" books. For one, assorted "language arts skills" if it's a slightly too high reading level. But mostly it's that books CAN transport you to another place, that they can scary and thrilling and keep you on the edge of your seat, that they can make you laugh and cry and are completely worth spending your time on!

Only now, since I started HSing my middle child, am I making any demands on her regarding what she reads. I'm not limiting her "fluff" books really, but I'm trying to make sure she includes some reading about history and science (historical fiction and good biographies, stories about scientists that include science "lessons" as part of the story, science magazines that are geared to her level, etc) so we can "cover" those subject areas without having to use dry textbooks or learn in a disjointed fashion that doesn't follow her interests.
post #13 of 136
I guess i never really thought to catagorize a book as "fluff" and "not fluff"...i think people should read what interests them. If your child enjoys it, what's the problem?


Katherine
post #14 of 136
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by queenjane View Post
I guess i never really thought to catagorize a book as "fluff" and "not fluff"...i think people should read what interests them. If your child enjoys it, what's the problem?
I think my issue is that like Meg Murry I spent my adolescence reading a steady diet of absolute fluff...the intellectual equivalent of eating marshmallows for every meal LOL (Harlequin Romances anyone??) so I really try to ensure that I have a wide variety of interesting reading around (esp. since I get to be the one reading most of it aloud...I think I have allowed enough brain cells to snap crackle and pop during my teenage years LOL so I guard what I have left zealously

So we don't read too many character books and such simply because I don't enjoy reading them as much as I do Beatrix Potter or Andersen's and Grimm's Fairy Tales (another current favorite with DS....he seems to love being mildly scared while reading LOL as long as he has the assurance that it all works out well in the end

I must admit though that the Spider Riders book is good enough that I won't let DH trade off reading a chapter LOL because then I wouldn't know what was happening...so while it isn't as lovely to read as most of our other selections it does have a really fast pace which is a nice change of pace KWIM?

Steph
post #15 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dar View Post
I think Valley of the Dolls is Rain's current favorite book, and I introduced her to V.C. Andrews on a recent plane trip... not at all well-written, but good fluff. Did you also read Stephen King? That's her third current love.

I think it's fine, obviously. I still have fond feelings about a lot of the fluff I used to read (that's why I grabbed My Sweet Audrina at the thrift store).

dar
Sure, I've read a ton of Stephen King -- almost everything except the Dark Tower series, which I was never able to feel much affinity for.

At least for me, though, having fed my brain a great deal of mental fluff, that's like saying to an person with a weight problem, "Did you like the éclair?" I loved the éclair. Enjoyed the chocolatey-creamy-flakiness of them all...but in the end, the impact on my (intellectual) health wasn't equally balanced by the enjoyment I derived from reading them.

I look back now and think that I honestly would've accrued far more long-term benefits from having read better-quality literature -- and honestly, I can't even enjoy fiction any more (other than children's fiction) because I read it and think, "Man, this is crap," or, "Man, this is boring," or worst, "Man, this is boring crap." Really, even the stuff that people say is good (The Lovely Bones...Never Let You Go...She's Come Undone...Saturday...) doesn't really do it for me any more. Maybe I'd feel the same way if I'd had a steady diet of Dickens through my teen years, but I tend to doubt it.

That's just me, though.
post #16 of 136
Let's not forget that the "classics" were written to entertain. Shakespeare didn't write thinking that his works would be analyzed by every high school kid in America. I think he would probably hate Cliff's Notes.
He wrote to entertain audiences. Sadly, now that they are required reading, they are not so entertaining to the reader.
post #17 of 136
I feel of two minds too when it comes to kids reading brain candy. Full disclosure time: I teach English. Sorry.: I've heard the argument many times that XYZ "fluffy" book or book series is good "because it gets the kids to read."

Unfortunately, at least from my perspective, fluff books may get kids to read in the sense of "decode," and that's all fine, but it doesn't get them to "read" in much of a larger sense -- that is, it doesn't give them the ability to make inferences about a character's motivations when they're not explicitly stated, read multiple meanings of a word and see the impact, or derive the author's point when it's not absolutely obvious -- all of which constitute "reading" from about 5th grade on up (or at least from 9th grade on up).

Okay, if this were just a reading skill, even *I* would be inclined to say, "So what? Big deal!" However, it's not. It's fundamentally a thinking skill, an ability to handle complexity. You'd be surprised -- or maybe not -- to see how difficult it can be for some kids to derive an author's point when the point isn't a cliché, and unfortunately, good literature tends to avoid cliché themes and have complex ideas.

Many of the sentences in some "fluff" for kids (let's use Artemis Fowl as an example) are very brief, often 2-3 sentences per line. The vocabulary is also very unchallenging, unlike in books for kids which are far less fluffy, like the Series of Unfortunate Events or A Wrinkle in Time. Reading fluff doesn't give them the necessary skill to handle thoughts that sustain themselves over several lines of text, literally -- and the impact on their writing is also very clear.

In short, I'm glad some kids are reading just like I'm glad some kids are eating, but just like most of us here would say that a McDonald's Quarter Pounder is "food" and an occasional burger won't kill you (and is better than starving), I think we'd also have to say that in the long run, it's better to have (let's say) a tasty portobello mushroom sandwich with organic pesto and tomatoes on wholewheat bread.
post #18 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pinky Tuscadero View Post
Let's not forget that the "classics" were written to entertain. Shakespeare didn't write thinking that his works would be analyzed by every high school kid in America. I think he would probably hate Cliff's Notes.
He wrote to entertain audiences. Sadly, now that they are required reading, they are not so entertaining to the reader.
I totally agree. I think that he consciously wrote at two levels, though, one for the audience in the pit and the other for the audience in the boxes. To make a comparison, it's kind've like Jesus' parables: on one level, they're entertaining stories, but the complex ideas are there if you're looking for them.

I think that he would detest Cliffs Notes...and probably be horrified at the idea that people read the plays without seeing them. Really, we wouldn't do that with an episode of The Simpsons -- we'd actually play the show -- so why can't this happen more often in the teaching of Shakespeare?

Sorry...I'll get off my soapbox now *slinking shamefully away.*
post #19 of 136
We read fluff books for all ages here. I think most character books are pretty awful but I don't have any sort of moral stance against them, I just find them annoying. When we have a long reading session here (DS is only a beginning reader so most reading is aloud by me), we often trade off who picks the books. So he might pick some Berenstain Bears book and then I pick something I deem more "worthy" and we alternate like that.

I also find that getting us into a chapter book really helps. Many of them are really entertaining and it gives me a nice long break from reading anything character based.

As far as older kids, well, I read all of Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt when I was in high school. I loved them. I spent whole summers laying in bed in the morning and reading. It was really great for me. I'm still a big reader.

As far as things like She's Come Undone - well, I don't exactly consider that great literature either. I think if you don't like chick lit (and really that's what She's is, it was just written by a man), that's no big deal, you just read something else you do like.

I also think it's good not to label things. Shakespeare and the canon can get thrown around and, yeah, maybe everyone should read them, but there are plenty of non-canon works that are great. I read a lot of science fiction and while some would write that off as "just genre fiction", some SF is very powerful, moving and insightful.

Next on the soapbox is...
post #20 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by tuffykenwell View Post
I think my issue is that like Meg Murry I spent my adolescence reading a steady diet of absolute fluff...the intellectual equivalent of eating marshmallows for every meal LOL (Harlequin Romances anyone??) so I really try to ensure that I have a wide variety of interesting reading around (esp. since I get to be the one reading most of it aloud...I think I have allowed enough brain cells to snap crackle and pop during my teenage years LOL so I guard what I have left zealously
Assuming that you were schooled, I don't see this as 'bad' as you may! I might be pulling too much from my own memories of the school experience, but there were regular reading and writing opportunities to stretch the brain in ways that Meg Murray is correctly suggesting. Time to relax and be transported to another place that we could connect to on an emotional level couldn't be that bad! Teens have it hard. Give yourself some slack!

As for our kids, I think this is an interesting conversation. I wholly agree with the poster who doesn't let her kids do much with the "marketed characters". OTOH, I think we do interperse really great books, with those of questionable intellectual value. But even some of the 'fluff' books have a way of opening the mind to magical possibilites. As per usual, I find myself somewhere in the middle. Nothing wrong with a little fluff, so long as there is regular exposure to the better stuff!
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