Topic | Illustrated Classics

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  • SarahM

    I am the new librarian at a small Christian school that strives to follow many of Charlotte Mason’s teachings, especially those involving living books.  I’ve started weeding out “twaddle” from our shelves and have recently pulled all of our Illustrated Classics.  Before I get rid of them, I wanted to get a second opinion. 

    I used to think that abridged classics had value in that they introduced children to the basic storylines of timeless novels and helped them be somewhat “culturally literate” (especially reluctant readers).  As I’ve grown in my understanding of “living books,” I now feel that children should read the original stories, as there is more to a “classic” than just the storyline. 

    Thoughts?  Do Illustrated Classics have value for children or should they be deemed “twaddle” and avoided?  Thanks for your input!

    Sara B.

    I have the Illustrated Classics series, or at least a great many of them.  I have read them, as well.  I found them to be “dumbed down,” IMO.  I was in high school when I read most of them, on my own, not for school.  I am an avid reader, and I found them interesting, but at no more than a 6th – 8th grade reading level, maybe even younger than that (now I can’t remember).  I have been collecting the original, unabridged classics for the last several years, and as I’ve read them, I also found that there are parts of the story that gets left out in the abridged versions.  Granted, they take out bad words and bad situations, but then where is the value of the story if you can’t learn from characters’ mistakes, kwim?

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.


    For our family read alouds I always prefer the unabridged version.  It seems like the abridged versions assume that kids are not bright enough to “get it” but I think that if you expose them to the books with rich language and in depth plots and storylines then they will learn to “get it” and appreciate it.  My kids already do and they are still pretty little.  I think that as long as you are choosing age appropriate stories you shouldn’t need to worry about “troubling content” either.  We just finished reading Heidi.  It took a while to get through it but it was worth it.  The kids loved it, understood it and talk about it regularly.  It would have been a shame if we had picked a dumbed down version of the story.  They would have missed so much.  Plus, we can gently work on vocabulary, grammer, and excellent writing this way.  We explain anything that they need clarification on and it’s all good! 

      Maybe this would need to be different if we were not doing them as read alouds?  I know that my dc would not be able to read these books alone.  Maybe someone could give some advice as to what to do in that situation.


    Rachel White

    I personally think they should be completely avoided. They don’t prepare the child for the real thing or develop a love of literature. If the stort/book is too advanced for the reader, then just wait till the child is old enough for the real thing. For example, instead of giving an 8 yr. old the Illustrated verion of “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”, just wait until the child is ready for the real thing. There’s plenty of other non-twaddle books for the 8 yr. old to read.

    In our expereince, the most successful way I have introduced more advanced books that had no previous interest for my child is through listening to a dramatized audio verison or dramatic audio reading. I’m introducing Henty to my son this year through Jim Weiss’ storytelling powers.

    The only abriged versions I have allowed has been from the original authors and JAmes Baldwin and Alfred Church. For example, The Black Stallion was abridged by it’s own author and Charles Dickens abriged some of his own works for the stage; and maybe Les Miserables as I have the unabridged version and I wouldn’t fault my children to read the abridged verison.


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