The unthinkable has happened. Despite your best efforts at curating an intentional bookshelf for your family, a bad children’s book has infiltrated your home library. It may have come from a well-meaning relative giving your child a birthday gift. You may not have read the entirety of the book beforehand and there’s a page or two that are completely off that you didn’t catch. Your child may have begged you for the book and you obliged to save from a scream-fest in the middle of the bookstore.
Regardless of how the book entered your home, it’s here. You’ve discovered that it is a bad book and it needs to go. So, what do you do with a bad children’s book?
What To Do With a Bad Children’s Book
First, let’s back up a little. What classifies something as a “bad children’s book”. You may not like my answer, because it’s not so black and white. That’s because books are not inherently and universally bad or good, their validity in your home library is completely dependent on your unique family. A part of my core message, that we can and should all build an intentional bookshelf for our children, is that every library in unique. Each of our families are unique, so the books that fit our family values or interests will be different. Similarly, a book that is “bad” to one family, might be an excellent fit for another. It all depends on the values and topics you are trying to teach your children.
Is this even a bad book?
To determine if a book is a bad fit for your family’s bookshelf, you have to be super clear on what you want your bookshelf to look like. What are your family values? What are the core interests your child has that you want to cultivate? What kind of personality traits would you like your children to possess? Friends, if you haven’t read my book, this is the time to go grab yourself a copy. I dive deep into the nitty-gritty of planning your whole home library.
If the book does not serve your intentional bookshelf, it is a bad children’s book, and a bad fit. Period.
I’ll provide a concrete example, because those are the easiest to follow. One of our core family values (and therefore, a core value of our bookshelf) is gender equality. Both my husband and I feel very strongly that no gender is superior to another, it’s even reflected in our parenting. We are 50/50 parents, we both carry the childrearing responsibilities, take care of the home as a team, etc. We are living by example, and of course, only want to read books that reinforce this value to Addison.
We were given a heartfelt gift for Christmas from my parents: a pair of books called I Love My Mommy and I Love My Daddy. They were not a good fit for us (read the full post about why we don’t like those books). To put it simply, they contradicted the value of gender equality in a pretty obvious way, especially when read together. In horror and shock that I’d even begun to read them to Addison, I stored them away. A bad book had infiltrated our sacred library and we actually still have them hidden away. It is time to let them go. Now it begs the question – what do we do with this horribly bad children’s book (or in this case, the set)?
Alright before you go all Fahrenheit 451 on me and start burning your books, stop. Don’t touch those matches and get the pages away from the grill! Remember what I said? A bad book may not be a good fit for you, but might make another family really happy. It also might just be a bad book that no one wants, but there’s still no reason to torch it.
- Find a family whose ideals align with the book. A book does not have to be especially offensive and heinous to be considered a bad book for your library. In this case, another family might find great joy in a book that didn’t quite fit your bookshelf. Reach out to your friends directly or through social media (like a post on Facebook) and see if anyone would like the book. One thing I love about literature is that one perspective on a story is never the only one. The book may have given you a bad taste because of your perspective, but another individual might connect with it and it might make sense for their home.
- Donate it to a used bookstore, local library or a little free library. So, you posted on Facebook, you offered the book to your friends, you mentioned it at a dinner party – and no one wants the book. You still do not really want it in your home, so what do you do with it? You can’t in good faith leave it out in the rain to get stepped on and there still may be someone out there who resonates with it. Donate it to your local library or bookstore! You can also donate it to Books for Africa, a company that takes books (even used ones) and distributes them to students of all ages.
- Keep it as a teaching lesson. Wait – what? Did I not just tell you to get rid of that book immediately? I did. However, I also think that (especially with older children) bad books can make excellent examples of what not to do. Sometimes the best way of explaining why something is right is by explaining why the opposite thing is wrong (like in this book). Take, for example, my situation with the books that contradicted gender equality. I could read the book to Addison and discuss why this way of thinking does not really make sense (Is mommy the only one that washes the dishes? Is daddy the only parent that plays with you?).
- Other good ideas. Tracy from Lu & Bean Read has some pretty good ideas for what to do with old / unwanted books that totally fit with the bad book problem. Check out her post, (her ideas include things like holding a book swap and book exchanges)
Now go forth, and purge your bookshelf of all bad books! And if you need a little help deciding if a book is right or wrong for your home library, start by picking up a copy of The Intentional Bookshelf. The only way to truly combat the bad children’s book problem is by knowing exactly what should and should not enter your bookshelf in the first place.
I’ve made it super easy for you. That’s one of my missions here at Addison Reads – make life easier for parents and make parenting a more simple and fun process. So, I have created a reference sheet for you to print and download, it’s in my free resource library! Never wonder again, do I have a bad children’s book? Use this cheat-sheet to answer that question (it’s got 7 questions you can ask of a book to decide if it’s a bad fit for your library or not).
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