, Newburyport, MA

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March 5, 2014

The Daily Parent: Reading 'Captain Underpants'


How do parents help their children become better readers? Well, I must first state that I have a problem with the term “better” ... better in what way? Better grades in reading at school? More voracious? More fluent? More likely to develop a lifelong love of reading? Able to write a better book report?

I think you have to look at how one becomes a good reader in developmental stages. In elementary school, kids need to love to read and to do it very, very often. Kids become “better” readers in the ways mentioned by practicing. If they are reluctant readers, how can parents help them become engaged in reading so that they will invest lots of time doing it?

A friend from Connecticut was staying with me as I began to write this column. He mentioned his 8-year-old son, who struggles with reading and who acquired his first dog-eared favorite in “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” by Dav Pilkey. Ahhhh ... that most hated of potty-mouth humor books, at best tolerated and at worst banned by a fair percentage of parents and teachers everywhere.

I asked my friend if it bothered him that his son could not get enough of this series, and he smiled and said, “Of course not. It’s funny! You couldn’t even say the word ‘underpants’ in our house for, like, a year. But, it’s just a phase. He’s reading a children’s biography now.”

Aren’t most things a phase during childhood, more or less? I’m pretty sure my friend isn’t worried that his son will still be reading “Captain Underpants” in high school.

I used to hear a lot about “Captain Underpants” during lunch in the schools where I worked. You learn a lot about the lives of your students at lunch table duty! But I had not read “Captain Underpants” myself in years, so I recently picked up a copy of the first book in the series and sat down and read it.

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