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Baby Lit for the Global Economy

Posted: 2011-11-06

These days, you can't be too thin, too rich, or too young for Shakespeare.

According to her Amazon author bio, Kristen Bowers is âthe founder and President of the educational publishing company Secondary Solutions . After becoming frustrated with the quality and content of teaching materials available to her when she was a new teacher in 2005, Mrs. Bowers decided to create them herself.â One of her books, Romeo and Juliet Literature Guide (Common Core and NCTE/IRA Standards-Aligned Teaching Guide), comes in at 150 pages and sells for $24.95.

The fact that there's a market for a study guide of this length and details reveals the pressure students and their teachers feel. Bowers does offer a short cut. One can skip the fluff and get questions for checking comprehension for the entire play for $8.99--or buy questions for each act for $1.99. "Questions are based upon Bloom's Taxonomy of Questioning and cover all aspects of questioning, including Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation."

Indeed.

Bruce Coville offers a different approach. His Romeo and Juliet, beautifully illustrated by Dennis Nolan, is a prose adaptation of the play aimed at grades 5-8, though an enthusiastic reviewers say their pre-schoolers love it and "don't seem at all bothered by the death scene at the end."

Indeed.

My notion of literature has always been, "Why rush?" I wasn't ready for Moby Dick until I was 42 years old, and no simplified version could have delivered the goods. Nathaniel Philbrick asks the right question in the title of his book: Why read Moby-Dick? I'd ask that question before giving any so-called classic to a toddler, a fifth grader, or even a high schooler. Why read "Romeo and Juliet?"

An increasing number of parents fall for the sales pitch of making sure their kids get a leg up in facing the competitive workforce of the Global Economy. Arne Duncan barnstorms the country, warning parents that their kids will be competing globally with students in India, Israel and Indonesia.

Bring on the Shakespeare.

Clearly, these days, you can't be too thin, too rich, or too young for Shakespeare. Case in point: I have in my hand romeo & juliet, A BabyLit Board Book, which doubles as a counting primer, one in a series by Jennifer Adams. I was stunned to see this book advertised in Bas Bleu, an upscale catalogue where one can find book recommendations ranging from The Bronte's Went to Woolworth's to Chris Bohjalian's latest. Children's books are similarly diverse--from boxed sets of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to The Rescuers to The Cuckoo's Haiku and Other Birding Poems to Where's Walrus? Plus the BabyLit board books.

Because I could not stop myself from witnessing the ugly reality of it, the BabyLit Board Book romeo & juliet now sits on my desk. I resisted the enhanced ebook version. According to the publisher: Enhancements to the standard ebook include a read-along feature that highlights words while being spoken aloud, a count-along feature which animates each object while counting aloud, as well as music and sound effects when certain objects are touched. All this plus a bonus animation game.

Referring to a companion toddler book,Pride and Prejudice, the publisher notes, "Older children and parents will enjoy hearing the first paragraph from the actual novel being read them to them by professional Shakespearean actors!" So if you buy the ebook version, in addition to getting a counting book, when the baby touches the horse on the screen it will neigh and she can hear professional Shakespearean actors read from Pride and Prejudice.


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.


In a Publishers Weekly interview, Gibbs Smith creative director of the BabyLit series and series editor Suzanne Taylor explain, "We knew there was nothing like it available for the age group, and that the books would be a great introduction to perennial classics both for very small children and parents who might never have read the classics before."

What a concept: a primer counting book as a vehicle to introduce classics to the parent.

1 English Village;
2 Rich Gentlemen (Mr Bingley and Mr. Darcy)

Warning: Parents who read the BabyLit romeo & juliet for a "fashionable way" to introduce a child to the world of class literature should be wary of counting on it for their own introduction. For example, here's number 5:

5 friends: Tybalt, Friar Laurence, Nurse, Paris, Mercutio

Spoiler: These five aren't friends.

In a review of the Little Miss Austen volume, Pride and Prejudice No Time for Flash Cards: A Resource of Activities for Young Children that Promote Play Discovery, and Learning which is syndicated by Scholastic, we read that this "is a fun way to introduce children to the world of classic literature. . . . Even without the Pride and Prejudice references it is a lovely counting book but who doesn't want to count the courting couples or sisters?"

You can count me out.

What happened to Goodnight Moon for toddlers?

Goodnight kittens
And goodnight mittens.

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