Defining Twaddle

by Catherine Levison

Because Charlotte Mason strongly recommended the avoidance of twaddle, parents are often concerned about what it is and how they can successfully avoid it in the context of education.

First, let’s look at the synonyms of twaddle which include, babble, drivel and silly. Ordinarily twaddle refers to literature written down to children. Books written to children are not avoided. A good example would be any of Beatrix Potter’s works — she writes to children but not down to them. If we were to review what Charlotte would recommend in children’s literature we’d look for interesting content and well constructed sentences clothed in literary language. She wanted the imagination to be warmed and the book to hold the interest of the child. In Charlotte Mason’s opinion, life’s too short to spend time with books that bore us.

If our children have only been exposed to junk food, they may resist trying nutritious food. If they’ve been raised on twaddle, they may need to be weaned slowly off of this mental junk food. Ideally, if they were not exposed to twaddly books in the first place, all involved would be way ahead of the game.

It is my opinion that dumbed-down literature is easy to spot. When you’re standing in the library and pick up modern-day, elementary-level books, you’re apt to see short sentences with very little effort applied to artistically constructing them to please the mind. Almost anyone can write — but not everyone is gifted in this field. Gifted authors bring images alive with their choice of words (I do not claim to be gifted in this area, by the way. Writing is just an efficient mode of communication to me — I much prefer talking). Gifted authors often write classic literature, and classics are an excellent way to spend one’s reading time.

Twaddle is easy to come by; the planet is filled with it. People coped with it in Charlotte Mason’s day, and we must cope with it in ours’. If anything, literature has deteriorated even further. The best way to cope with this excessive quantity of bad books is to stand firm and only spend our money on the best.

But what about friends and relatives who unknowingly supply our children with twaddle at gift-giving times? Try talking to those who are apt to buy gifts for your children and tell them about the direction you’re heading with reading material. Some people pick up on things easier than others, therefore, for some folks a simple explanation of the type of literature you want purchased as gifts is all they’ll need. If you’ve started to collect any particular set of children’s classics currently in bookstores or catalogs, you could provide Grandma with a list of titles you’d like. Be specific, and offer to help her with the ordering, or perhaps even drive her to your favorite bookstore, or give out a copy of the following list: Twaddle-Free Books by Grade Level.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Levison (Washington State resident, mother of five, and home schooling parent for many years) is a frequent speaker to parenting and home schooling audiences throughout the USA and Canada. She is the author of A Charlotte Mason Education: A How to Manual and the sequel, More Charlotte Mason Education. You can visit Catherine’s author page at:  Catherine Levison on


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