Allison's Book Bag

Classics for Babies!?

Posted on: April 16, 2013

Have you seen Cozy Classics? Launched this past fall, the idea behind the series of board books is to introduce classics to babies. The series retell the classics by using photos of felted characters and just one word per page. The creators are twins Holman and Jack Wang. In the press release, Wang notes: “We created Cozy Classics to revitalize the genre of the baby word books by injecting a sense of narrative and fun for the parent. In doing so, we hope to foster in children a lifelong love of reading and literature.”

Frog and Toad are Friends

Frog and Toad are Friends (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first read about the concept, my initial reaction was: “Not for me!”  (No, I am not yet a parent, but if I were….) According to Huffington Post, the creators state: “Unlike Barney and Dora, Moby Dick’s Ishmael and Pride & Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett are characters that children will never outgrow.” That doesn’t necessarily turn me onto the books, because much better examples of characters from children’s literature could have been used than Barney and Dora. For example, who remembers Babar, Corduroy, and the Grinch? Or from books for slightly older children, who remembers Frog and Toad, Madeline, or Paddington Bear? These characters, I contend, are ones none of us will ever outgrow either. However, I suspect the creators would have a more difficult time selling their books if instead they had said, “Unlike Amelia Bedelia and Curious George….”

Granted, as I researched the company’s website, I have to concur with those fans who found the felted characters adorable. However, because the selling point isn’t supposed to be the photographs but the books, I kept browsing online examples of their books. And the longer I looked, the more I wondered why all the examples kept showing text from the original classics instead of the new condensed ones. I even began to wonder if all the promotions were wrong about the books using just one word per page. Finally, I found an example on the company’s About page of the one-word page. Ah, at least, now I know that description was accurate.

Despite that, at the moment I don’t see how Cozy Classics are better than other vocabulary books. Admittedly, I haven’t seen these books except online. Nor do I know what baby books I would purchase should the need arise. But I do know that I’d want to at least consider checking out the recognized books for teaching words. Oh, and pass on my beloved copies of Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, and….

What”s your reaction? Do you have any experience with Cozy Classics? Or now that I’ve told you about them, do you have any interest in them?

2 Responses to "Classics for Babies!?"

I’m a cynic. I see the Cozy Classics as the latest in a series of products that suggests or promises, in the complete absence of any research to support the claim, to make your child smarter. The suggestion with these Cozy Classics is that a book depicting a fuzzy felt sea captain next to the word “CAPTAIN,” followed by a fuzzy felt whale next to the world “WHALE,” will turn your child onto the classics. And who wouldn’t want that?

I see Cozy Classics’ emphasis on the classics to be nothing more than an opportunistic move; the Cozy Classics company is taking advantage of the fact that the classics are in the public domain and therefore can be cannibalized for free. And, of course, there’s the built-in public familiarity with the classics, and their association with intelligence. It’s a winning combination!

I do think the idea of incorporating a narrative into vocabulary picture books is a good one. However, Cozy Classics sure asks parents to do a lot of work. They suggest that as children get older, parents can expand on the one-word captions with an abridged version of the classic tale. A brief summary of the story is helpfully included on the back of each book — or there’s a longer summary available on the web site. On the web site? At least there’s an awareness that most parents won’t have read Moby Dick, but why make parents go to the internet?

I’d be a bigger fan of these books if each page of text had the single vocabulary word, with a short one-sentence description of the action above it and a paragraph-long version below it. That would be much more workable as books that would grow with one’s child. Of course, there would still be the problem that the books’ appearance would not grow alongside the story; with their adorable needle-felted characters and thick paperboard pages, the books will always look like baby books, and older kids are going to want to move onto books made for them.

I still can’t help but bristle at the suggestion that these books will make kids smarter. There are lots of good books out there for toddlers — with pictures and stories suitable for children. If you want to turn your kids onto the classics, the best thing you can do for them is to instill a love of reading. Whether a book contains a picture of a fuzzy whale will not make a difference.

Hear! Hear! Thanks for your comments. 🙂

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