What’s with all the bad grammar in kids’ books?

So, here’s a little rant that has me wearing both my “editor” and “mom” hats at the same time.

I’ve been consistently impressed by my oldest daughter’s vocabulary and grasp of grammar as she gets older (almost 6! where does the time go?). I commented recently to my husband how impressive it is that she corrects her own grammar aloud and he said, “It’s because she reads.” And she does (The Boxcar Children at age 6? Seriously? Blows me away. But I digress.).

The conversation got me thinking.

Our kids learn the English language through what they hear spoken around them and from what they read, whether it is read aloud to them or they read on their own. I have three kids – only one is old enough to be reading on her own, the others need to be read aloud to. SO – being crazy about grammar (but I’m lightening up as the language evolves…grr), it DRIVES ME NUTS when picture books have poor grammar. If I want my kids to learn to speak properly, they need to hear the language used properly.

An example: One of my middle daughter’s favorite books, and mine, is Ping Pong Pig.

It’s a fun story about a pig who is too busy trying to fly to help with the chores on the farm. Then his friends intervene and build him a trampoline so he can “fly.” Touched by their generosity, Ping Pong uses his new trampoline to fix all the messes he made on the farm while trying to fly. The whole “when pigs fly” thing is lost on the kids, but it’s a fun story.

BUT. And this has bugged me for the entirety of the six years I’ve been reading the book. One of the last pages says: “Until something caught their eye.” Apparently it’s no longer up for debate whether “they” can be used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun (it can, though it still grates on me). At first glance, that might appear to be the case here, but it’s not. “Their” refers to Ping Pong’s friends — plural. Therefore, they cannot have an “eye;” proper agreement dictates that it read “eyes.” So, it should read, “until something caught their eyes.” Now, I recognize that this sounds silly but that’s just my point: we are conditioning ourselves and our children to poor grammar by filling our picture books with it. It starts to sound so normal that proper grammar all of a sudden sounds bad. Truth be told, I would just rephrase the whole thing to something that sounds better, such as, “until they noticed something,” to avoid the awkwardness. But I digress again.

So, my “editor” hat says, “PLEASE let’s do a better job editing our picture books,” because I’m offended by poor grammar. But my “mom” hat says, “PLEASE let’s do a better job editing our picture books,” because I want my kids to learn to speak correctly.

Clearly, Ping Pong Pig is not the worst offender — I’ve read much worse, and it hasn’t ruined my kids. BUT I’m debating going through all our picture books and eliminating every one with poor grammar.

That, or writing in edits like my dad always did to the newspaper.

 

Thanks for listening to my rant! Do you share my sentiments? Have you seen any offenders out there I should watch out for? Finally, if you are writing a picture book and need an editor, I’m happy to help!

Happy Birthday to me! (And a C.S. Lewis book)

So yesterday was my birthday – and it was an absolutely awesome day. I LOVE my birthday every year, but yesterday was definitely one of the best birthdays I’ve had. My husband and kids just pulled out all the stops. Honestly, it was less about the specifics of what they did and more about the amount of effort and love they put into everything: they baked me a cake (from scratch! and it was delicious!), made me homemade cards, Adam made me paella (yum!), and they *tried* to let me sleep in (A didn’t cooperate, but she’s a baby)… and my five-year-old (“H”) got me a gift:

Reflections on the Psalms by [Lewis, C. S.]

It was absolutely the most perfect, wonderful gift, and I sobbed when I opened it. The whole thing was her idea, and Adam made it happen. One night at dinner we were talking about my birthday and she jumped up and whispered in his ear that she wanted to get me a book for my birthday (all I knew was she wanted to get me a gift). So, he took her to Barnes and Noble. As he tells it, they wandered the entire store looking, when H happened upon the Christianity section. Now, she and I have read some of the Chronicles of Narnia together, and she knows I’ve read other C.S. Lewis books. So as soon as she saw C.S. Lewis, she knew that’s what she wanted to get me. She actually wanted to get me all the C.S. Lewis books, but Adam helped her pick just one. She even paid for it from her piggy bank, wrapped it herself, and kept it a secret until I opened it. So perfect.

One of my favorite things (obviously, right?) is reading, and it’s so special for me to share that love with my daughters. In July we started having H stay up later and she and I started reading chapter books together every night before bed. It has become part of my day that I really look forward to. In fact, the couple of times we’ve tried to punish her by saying, “no story at bedtime,” it has been more of a punishment for me. I really treasure that time, and I’ve told her that.

What moved me the most about this gift is that my daughter, not yet six years old, knows me. She didn’t just want to get me any gift – she chose the perfect gift. She was able to see me as my own person, outside of my role as mom, and she gave selflessly just to bring me joy. She smiled as she walked out of my bedroom yesterday and said, “So now you can read it to yourself at night.”

So now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read some Reflections on the Psalms.