Dumbing Down Books?

Are Americans getting dumbed down books? It seems obvious when you look at some of the works in the following quote.

Is children’s literature being dumbed down? The answer isn’t always clear, but the evidence that something is happening lies on store shelves around the country. “They have these My First Little House on the Prairie books,” laments author/illustrator and Emerson College Writer-In-Residence Lisa Jahn-Clough. “And that’s ridiculous because that is rewriting them and trying to introduce them at an earlier age, and I think that takes away from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.”

Plenty of similar works, including William Joyce’s Santa Calls, have received the abridged board-book treatment. Most Richard Scarry books are routinely abridged, cut and pasted, rewritten and redrawn. Margaret Wise Brown’s Color Kittens has been redrawn and edited in recent editions. When you add to this the proliferation of substandard original works, especially in the Young Adults market where Goosebumps and Sweet Valley High sell serialized fourth-grade reading levels to teens, along with countless media tie-ins – thank goodness that all they’re doing to Harry Potter is changing Briticisms.

I haven’t read all the books from the quote, but I have read both versions of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. And I think that if you as a parent want to introduce these to your children, then you should read the originals to them. So much is lost in the easy to read versions, the big picture, the wording, the self of Laura.

Also, I have searched for years for the original version of the Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown. When the new version was published I purchased it, not quite happily because I didn’t like the drawings, but then when I read it… I wondered where MY story went. Where is the Color Kittens that I remember as a child?

I have to admit that I have only read Richard Scarry in modern children’s versions and I have no idea if the ones I have read are true to the originals or not. I do know my children loved Richard Scarry when they were younger.

While my boys read the Goosebumps series for about a week when they were 7 or 8, they weren’t enthralled with them. I would not think this was a teen series because of that.

In addition, one easy to read set that is not mentioned is Animorphs. My boys read more than 20 of those when they were 8 or 9. I don’t know if they are written on a fourth grade level, but they are simple and quick reading. The heroes are high school kids who date, drive themselves, and head to the mall. If these were supposed to be high school reading books, I would say they were definitely dumbed down.

The original quote is from John E. Mitchell and was written in November 2000.