It’s no secret that reading to and with your kids is pretty important stuff. The thing no one will tell you is that most of your options are terrible.
I loved reading to my daughter when she was just a wee little bairn. There was something about curling up on the sofa with her and a pile of her favorite picture books that made me feel like I was channeling some kind of mystical über-mom. I was basically LeVar Burton mixed with June Cleaver, and my kid was going to be a genius probably.
Then I realized something: Children’s books are awful. Even beloved ones. Especially beloved ones. Maybe it’s the droll repetition of Guess How Much I Love You that did it or my child’s weird aversion to ever reading anything but the same three books over and over again, but one day it hit me: These are dreck. They really suck. Here are the biggest offenders.
1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
I’m getting this one out of the way immediately, because it’s the one I imagine I’ll get the most flak for since people love this book. They love it more than they love their sainted mothers, and I’m just going to be blunt here: I don’t get it. This book sucks. I got no less than five copies of this thing before my daughter was born, but God must be merciful because she wasn’t even remotely interested. Not that I blame her. “Goodnight mush”? Thrilling stuff. (Amazon, $8)
2. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
This is the book your kid got from your grandparents, probably. It’s creepy on its face and any woman who married a mama’s boy must surely cringe when that weird-ass lady slithers in through the window to rock her fully grown son to sleep. (Amazon, $12)
3. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Here’s a book my child was obsessed with, and honestly, I don’t hate it. It’s actually pretty sweet. My beef with this book is that it made the phrase “I love you to the moon and back” popular, particularly among the Pinterest-inclined. It’s like really liking a song and then hearing that song three times an hour on the radio on every single station. Before long you want to drive an ice pick into your ear. (Amazon, $5)
4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Talk about your terrible lessons for kids. Boy literally uses the Giving Tree until it’s nothing but a sad little stump, and then he sits on it. “I know you’ve given me everything you have to give. Mind if I repay your generosity with my sweaty butt cheeks?” No thanks. (Amazon, $10)
5. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
You know what, Alexander? You’re a whiny little jerk. This kid’s idea of a “problem” is wearing train pajamas and being punished for punching another person. That’s not a problem. That’s experiencing consequences for the poor decisions you make. (Amazon, $6)
6. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Cute book, but probably responsible for a billion percent of children drawing all over the walls in purple crayon. Magic Erasers ain’t cheap, kids. (Amazon, $7)
7. Once Upon A Potty by Alona Frankel
Someone bought us this book as a “teaching aid” for our daughter when it came time to start making “twosies” on the throne. It doesn’t really teach your child much, unless you count, “teaches your child to announce in the grocery store that she has ‘a little hole for making poo-poo.'” But hey, maybe that’s your thing. (Amazon, $8)
8. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
I can’t really put my finger on why The Rainbow Fish is so bad. A whack-a-do relative of mine once suggested that it was Communist indoctrination, and while I wouldn’t go that far, I’ll say the idea of ripping little pieces of yourself off just so that other people will like you seems a little… dark? (Amazon, $2)
9. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
Hey kids. If you don’t want to go to sleep, scream bloody murder until your mother fears for your life! (Amazon, $11)
10. Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy by Doris Sanford
I understand that a lot of these books might be divisive. The very story you cherish might be someone else’s most hated tome. That’s why I included this sordid tale of satanic ritual abuse, complete with pictures that look like they were drawn by a deranged seal high on methamphetamine with a box of crayons strapped to its forehead. We can all be united in our hatred for this awful book. (Amazon, $90)