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January 2015

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The Insipid Truth About Bedtime Storybooks

Written by , Posted in Leadership, Sustainability

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The Insipid Truth About Bedtime Storybooks

As an author who self-publishes I don’t wonder how some books get published. The publishing part, while time consuming, isn’t impossible anymore. My question is how it goes from self or commercially published to the store. Not book stores alone. No, many of the books I’m referring to end up in children’s stores like Toys-R-Us and grocery stores like Lablaws and Metro.

Having a child now, we are starting to read him bedtime stories. The only problem is the idea and ideals behind some of the books published today’s are insipid. Not all of course, but many. For those of you who grew up on that crap… insipid means unimaginative, uninspired, uninspiring, trite; the list goes on. Suffice to say, it’s not worthy of our children’s ears.
So what happened? Are people trying to emulate Dr Suess? It would certainly seem so. Only recently we read a book that was so macabre I didn’t even want to read it myself. And it was for children? Eek. We’ve read books about rabbits, deer, snot, poo, the moon in the night sky, and the night itself. But more often the stories aren’t about anything at all. Now, I’m not suggesting these stories have several layers of allegory and hidden meanings. I just wonder if they could make sense.

Some suggest that the story doesn’t have to make sense, that it’s really just about the sensory input of words and visuals from the pages. The goal is to read the same book to a child ten thousand times until the child carts the book around with them like a blanket, dousing it in water or peanut butter as the situation may call for just so she can plop it down on your lap and say, “Read me.”

There are two fundamental issues however, for both audience and reader and yes this is one of the few times those aren’t the same person. The audience (your child) is begging for these stories as if they can offer some epiphany. Were the authors such geniuses that they trapped the soul of God in their words, allowing the children to tap in and become more than they were only seconds before? Will the children come out with a vocabulary rivaled by adults because they heard the words of the prophet? I somehow don’t think so. The words are unimaginative because there is no story, they are uninspired because there are few words more than five letters long and uninspiring, because there is no lesson learned when they child grows old enough to comprehend such concepts.

But, don’t forget the reader. Let’s assume these books are the word of heaven, but we as adults have lost our ability to hear the chorus of angels. As writers, would you not think to at least string together words that actually make real sentences as opposed to the either truncated or meandering sentences that don’t mean a single thing? By involving the reader story time is no longer about the book, it’s about what the book accomplishes. Imagine an inspired book that elicits conversation with your child. Oh, what’s that? Oh, how do they do that? What does thank you mean? What’s a doe or a buck? The possibilities are endless. When your reader is engaged they will do what they are supposed to be doing, teaching your child to imagine, read, and communicate. But communication, requires one very important concept: meaning.

Granted, not all of us can illustrate like the images that end up in most books. I say most books given some images look like they were drawn by the children reading the stories. Nonetheless, you do have an imagination. Perhaps it’s time to put SpongeBob’s TV remote down for a few minutes and interact with your children for a few minutes a day. What was it that Bart Simpson said? It’s just hard not to listen to TV: it’s spent so much more time raising us than you have. Create a story, tell a story. You are full of them, you just have to communicate them to your children.

Do you have a story to tell?