, Newburyport, MA


March 5, 2014

The Daily Parent: Reading 'Captain Underpants'


Can I just say that I was laughing out loud? None of this ubiquitously hollow LOL stuff that peppers the Internet. I mean, I was truly guffawing. If I were in third or fourth grade, especially if I were a boy, I would not be able to stop turning the pages. As a 50-year-old woman, I could not stop turning the pages!

For children who avoid picking up books, or drop them easily to run outside or go boot up the computer, “Captain Underpants” and similar books could be the ticket that turns your “I’d rather play my Game Boy” kid into one who soon reads “Harry Potter.”

For parents concerned about the distasteful language of the “It’s snot funny” variety, I’d guess that what your children see on television and in the theaters is of somewhat greater concern. I’d rather have my child laughing at doo-doo jokes in a comic book and developing a thirst for reading than watching some of today’s kid movies that are full of violence, sexual innuendo and adult banter, all aimed at entertaining the parents in the audience. At least Super Diaper Baby reaches kids on their own level.

I’m all for helping kids find their passions in books, whether that be “Captain Underpants,” illustration-rich nonfiction books about rocket ships or butterflies, or books that are technically below a child’s uppermost tested reading level. It’s about what gets your child to not hear you when you announce that dinner is ready. It’s not about title dropping.

When adults become vocally competitive with each other about what their children are reading, children get pressured to read books that are too difficult or “boring” and can be turned off by reading altogether. There will be plenty of time for emerging readers to get to the classics. Job one is getting them to voluntarily bring books into the car, even if they are not great literature, which the likes of “Captain Underpants” most certainly is not.

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