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Is it just me, or is this book a bit inappropriate for primary age children?

25 replies

Ginmummy1 · 13/03/2016 19:08

Am I being over-sensitive? My daughter brought home a book from school, containing five stories, and I think they’re awful! One story (the title story: The Purple Fox) ends with “They flung themselves on the fox in fury and tore him to pieces”. In another story four brothers created a dragon, who then ate them all. Another is about simple Simon, and says things like “Not only was Simon stupid, he was poor as well. He was too stupid to learn a trade, and could not be trusted to do the simplest job. He begged for a living, and even did that badly. If you gave him money, he would probably lose it before he got home.” It ends with the very dubious moral “Simon admits that he is not at all clever. “But who cares?” he asks. “Maybe it’s better to be lucky.” Perhaps Simon is not so simple after all.”

It was published 30 years ago.

My daughter is in Reception, and is a confident reader so chooses books from a box in the year 3 classroom, and therefore there is obviously some risk that she’ll choose something containing content that is more suitable for an 8-year-old than a 5-year-old. However, I don’t think these stories are suitable even for older children! Am I being over-sensitive?

OP posts:
JC22334 · 14/03/2016 08:53

The wonderful thing about reading is not just the entertainment the stories bring, but also the conversations they can start.

I personally don't ever think censorship is the answer, but education. So perhaps you could ask your daughter questions along the lines of 'would you call someone poor and stupid now?' / 'why not?' / 'how would it make Simon feel?' etc.

If your daughter can read anything and make her own mind up about whether the lessons are true or not then she'll be well prepared for life!

stitch10yearson · 14/03/2016 08:57

my 7 year old daughter read a book about an 11 year old girl with three younger siblings, whose 26 year old mother went off on holiday with her 19 year old boyfriend and the father of the younger twins didnt turn up to look after them because she had only left an answering machine message.
This is totally different to anything my child has experience in her life and I was horrified that she was reading it. But I took the pov, that it brought about discussion abour social issues. I wouldnt ban my child ever reading anything.

MiscellaneousAssortment · 15/03/2016 12:23

I agree that discussion tends to be better than censorship. But, it's a bit different when a child in Reception reading older aged books.

DS is in yr 1 now, and although he's SO much more 'mature' than a year ago, he'd struggle with reading something that was so different from our values today. Especially if it was read without any adult input.

Without preparation or context, my DS would be upset by the way Simon is described. He would probably end up in tears and refuse to read the book at all. But if it was introduced as part of a discussion on values and how different things could be years ago, he's read it and find it interesting.

Children can understand and accept really big or upsetting issues. But only if they're explained and explored.

Eg DS came home last year (4yrs old) and told me all about black people being made to sit at the back of buses. And one lady sat at the front and broke the rules and then other people did the same until they stopped people being nasty. He got very irate at the people in charge being Unfair, as children tend to have a very developed sense of fairness. He played a game that evening with various teddies being persecuted and refused entry to things and not allowed to go first, or sit in some places. He told me how glad me was he lived now, and how all the horrible people who did that weren't here anymore i.e. they are all dead! Ah, if only... I didn't disabuse him of that notion as I think it was coming from needing a sense of security about it as well as youthful naivety.

Anyway, I digress. I'd say the book is fine is set in context. But not great as part of a free reading scheme library. I wonder if the teacher knows what's in that book? I suspect not... I'd show the teacher so they can make a decision on where it should be. Maybe they'll think it's ok, but it should be a proper decision rather than a book slipped in without anyone realising.

Ferguson · 06/06/2016 20:06

As a retired TA I agree books such as these probably should not be used for teaching 'reading' but they can reveal something about the social and educational environment at the time they were written.

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen · 06/06/2016 20:08

I remember the simple Simon book,i had that when I was little!

What Ferguson posted.

1tsonlyme · 06/06/2016 22:55

I never have censored any books my children have read. Instead I used it as a way of teaching them that I will discuss anything that they don't understand. They know to ask me and my husband any question they have or words they have found or words that are said when playing or hanging out with others. I would as previous posters have said use the books as a discussion point.

Ginmummy1 · 07/06/2016 09:01

Ferguson, I do agree that books can present opportunities for discussion on social, cultural and historic issues that can be very beneficial. Yesterday DD's school book referred to a little girl worrying about being smacked, and then smacked hard. DD and I had an interesting discussion about it, and it was ok.

Also in response to Ferguson, I'm not sure what the aim is of DD's school books. They are changed twice per week if she’s read them, and she reads to a teacher/TA/helper now and again, but as she’s reading above her level there isn’t really a link with the phonics learning or anything they’re doing in class. She reads to us and we ask her how the characters are feeling, what might happen next etc. and discuss the type of language etc. I don’t know if you’d call these ‘teaching’ books or just ‘reading’ books, but they’re all she gets apart from phonics lessons.

However, DD is only 5, so while her actual reading, vocab and general comprehension are very good for her age, her limited life experiences will mean that certain old-fashioned books will present challenges to her that wouldn’t affect many older children. I will try to see this as a positive opportunity, rather than a cause for worry!

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Motherfuckers · 07/06/2016 09:10

What book is that Stitch?

nonicknameseemsavailable · 08/06/2016 12:53

Is she still choosing from within a level or is she reading early chapter books? at 5 we tended to stick to "safe" books like My Naughty Little Puppy, Magic Molly, the dreaded Rainbow Fairies, Secret Mermaid, various fairy animal type things, Dick King Smith etc, she might like the Claude books too. both mine were completely turned off reading by the selection at school so they took in their own books. There are quite a few books out there suitable for that age and lack of life experience but schools might not have many of them, ours certainly doesn't.

Ginmummy1 · 08/06/2016 13:07

It is within a box of books with a dark blue sticker on them. Previously the seemed to be following the Reading Chest Book Bands as she worked through purple, white, gold and lime.

I'm not really sure what the dark blue sticker signifies, as it doesn't seem to match any schemes I can find online, and the books seem to be a wider range of difficulties. Often they are chapter books, but also lengthy poetry, plays etc. I wonder whether it's the box for anything above lime but I don't really know!

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nonicknameseemsavailable · 08/06/2016 13:22

sounds like it must be. I would speak to her teacher and just say that as she is still very young you wonder if they would be happy for her to take in her own books or ones she chooses from the local library with you, that way she can choose them with you so you can let her look through and can discuss with her the ones she picks out, she can take her time instead of just grabbing something quickly and the library will hopefully have a better range.

Ginmummy1 · 10/06/2016 12:48

It's a good idea to see if bringing her own books into school might work better. However, as it's so close to the end of the year I'm inclined to ride it out and see what happens in September: I wouldn't want the year 1 teachers to think they don't need to have any involvement with DD's reading as we're supplying her books...

We do use the local library but it is very small, and we struggle to find suitable material there too: the graded early reader types of books all seem to be for the lower levels, and we end up with far too much Rainbow Magic and the like...

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nonicknameseemsavailable · 11/06/2016 12:33

do you have the funds to buy some books? I can suggest some if you do. libraries are very hit and miss. I tended to buy sets from the book people as so much cheaper.

Ginmummy1 · 11/06/2016 16:35

Yes: happy to buy some books, so feel free to recommend :)

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nonicknameseemsavailable · 11/06/2016 22:55

ok will have a look through the book shelves tomorrow and ask my daughters for suggestions...

mine have definitely loved any of Holly Webb's animal story books, Magic Molly ones are good to start with. they enjoyed these (I had one of the others in the series from when I was a child and that started them off)
My Naughty Little Puppy
The Worst Witch
My Naughty Little Sister
Magic Fairy Animals (think that was the series - called things like Pip the Puppy and Mia the Mouse or something - can check tomorrow) ah - found them - these ones
Lulu and the Dog in the Park and there are 5 or 6 others in the series
WWF Wild Friends
Humphrey the Hamster
The Bolds and The Bolds to the Rescue by Julian Clary were a big hit
We did also have a load of Rainbow Fairies, Secret Mermaid (these are in our local pound shop at the moment - worth a look) and Rescue Princesses etc.

most of ours have come from the Book People or the WH Smith book bundles but looks like smiths have stopped doing them which is a shame as they were good value and were lucky dip ones, we have had some great ones from them. I bought 4 or 5 different sets, only 3 books were duplicated and they went in the present box!

MarklahMarklah · 11/06/2016 23:09

Dark Blue is in the Oxford Reading Tree 'scale' for reading, AFAIK. It's band 4 of the levels for reception - effectively the 'top set' or final level before year one.

My DD is also 5 and moved up to these from yellow around a month ago. She seems to have a variety of books, but none have been quite along the lines you've had Gin. We've had quite a lot based on simplified Aesopps Fables, and then the obligatory Biff, Chip & Kipper. She reads a lot though, as sometimes she finds these a bit dull. I get that they teach phonics but the stories are boring as hell.
Tonight she was reading 'Zog' to me.

DesolateWaist · 11/06/2016 23:16

Dark Blue is in the Oxford Reading Tree 'scale' for reading, AFAIK. It's band 4 of the levels for reception - effectively the 'top set' or final level before year one.

This book sounds far too complicated to be an Oxford Reading tree blue book. Also given that it is 30 years old I doubt it fits into any recent phonic schemes like letters and sounds.

The description of Simple Simon sounds par for the course from 30 years ago in fairness. I wonder if this just might be an old book from the book corner rather than a school reader.

MarklahMarklah · 11/06/2016 23:24

I think schools sometimes try to fit random books into the scheme. DD brought one home in April which was stickered yellow but it was along the lines of 'the cat sat on the mat'.

I guess most schools can't turn down books when they're offered, but it sounds as though someone ought to be doing a little more checking.
I don't think I'd have an issue with the stories about the fox, but the Simple Simon one doesn't really convey a good message. I may just be speaking from the twisted perspective of our household though.

Ginmummy1 · 11/06/2016 23:41

It's definitely not the one just after yellow. She has had turquoise, purple, gold, white and lime before these ones, and she chooses her books from a box in the year three classroom. I'm sure it wasn't written for any phonics scheme, and the school has 'graded' it dark blue, whatever that means!

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MarklahMarklah · 12/06/2016 21:49

Ah, my misunderstanding! They follow ORT at DD's school, but they use books from other schemes, which also use the colours you mention - although they don't equate to the same levels in ORT, if you see what I mean. There are a number of books which the school have graded but no idea how they determine what is what!

Artandco · 12/06/2016 22:01

My 5 year old is a good reader. Some books he likes at the moment:

  1. the worst witch series. There's 6 I think and he's read them a few times through both to us and alone so must like. Some pictures every few pages

  2. the classics like secret garden, jungle book, wind in the willows. We have the slightly easier books which have pictures every other page which he likes.

  3. the usbourne factual books. About everything from volcanos, Victorians, and fireman.

    The main thing for both of mine seem to be they can read well since young, but as still young they prefer books to have some pictures still sometimes to help then visualise I think
Ginmummy1 · 13/06/2016 14:30

MarklahMarklah, my DD's school sounds a lot like yours - the colour bands seem to be the 'standard' ones (such as those found at but often they are old books that have been graded by members of staff, so can be a bit random.

Artandco I haven’t looked at Worst Witch so will try those! DD didn’t want to engage with Wind in the Willows for some reason, but we’ve recently seen Jungle Book at the cinema, and will also try the Secret Garden. She loves Usborne fact books.

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Beeziekn33ze · 13/06/2016 14:57

Artandco. By easier versions of classics like The Secret Garden and Wind in the Willows do you mean the Ladybird versions? I've found their huge range includes some good ones to introduce younger children to all kinds of books. The Book People often have sets at a low price.
If a child enjoys animal stories the Animal Ark series is good and has different levels of reading ability.
You also find some interesting 'chapter books' around such as Jacqueline Wilson's The Dinosaur's Packed Lunch and Sandi Toksvig's An Unusual Day which are great for 5 year olds who are good readers.

MeMySonAndl · 13/06/2016 15:05

Well... we get sanitised versions of similar stories all the time and nobody bats an eyelid. The Brother Grimm's stories are quite... grim, but since Disney keeps pushing them to general audiences, we are used to them.

You say that she is choosing books from the Y3 classroom as she is an advanced reader. Personally, I would rather ask her to change the book after checking it, than complain to the school as they can start giving her just very basic stuff, which will take away her interest in reading. (that is much worse, in my experience)

Artandco · 13/06/2016 19:46

Bee - mainly the usbourne ones rather than the ladybird. But that's just what we have be using so far

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