Of my twins’ fictional “friends,” Junie B. Jones is my least favorite.
She has a penchant for troublemaking, she’s sometimes rude, and her grammar needs improvement. In many ways, she’s a typical six-year-old, but that doesn’t make her a good role model for my girls, for whom books are a tool to develop their imaginations and their grasp of the English language.
Barbara Park’s series, narrated by Junie B., has been controversial among parents and educators since its introduction two decades ago. Some applaud the series for creating a realistic character with whom six-year-olds identify, thus encouraging them to read, while others abhor June B.’s behavior and grammar.
There are many books that feature children who haven’t yet learned proper grammar — or as close to “proper” grammar as we speak these days! — but those books are often intended for older children who aren’t struggling with basic language “rules” the way typical five or six-year-olds are struggling.
I’m a pretty laid back parent, particularly when it comes to reading material for my kids, but I’d never encourage them to read Junie B. Jones books. That said, I wouldn’t prevent my kids from reading them either.
One of my twins “befriended” Junie B. in kindergarten, when her teacher read these books to the class. The teacher is a proponent of “kid writing,” making Junie B. books more palatable to him than they are to me. Now, other books have found their way into our home via the library and gifts from friends. So, we have several Junie B. books, and my twins read them.
As they prepared for first grade, my twins were particularly interested in reading Junie B., First Grader (at last!). They could’ve read it on their own, but I decided to read it with them, even though every line of it was like nails on a chalkboard to me:
My stomach had flutterflies in it.
Also, my arms had prickly goose bumps. And my forehead had drops of sweaty.
“I am a wreck,” I said.
Daddy smiled very nice.
[…] I looked at him a real long time.
Then I quick spun around. And I zoomed down the hall as fast as I could!
I tolerate it for the sole purpose of using it as the basis for a discussion about appropriate behavior and grammar. Thankfully, my twins’ grammar is far better than Junie B.’s, and so they actually correct the text as we go along.
Thankfully, they were also far more excited about first grade than Junie B. was. As of yesterday, my twins are officially “graders” (at last!):