Junie B. Jones Is Ruining My Life

Books GeekMom
Junie B. Jones Graduation Girl
Image via Random House

Kids pick things up at day care and at school. I was prepared for that. When my daughter was two and a classmate came home from visiting relatives in New York with a new vocabulary of four-letter words, I expected those words to show up at our house. Miraculously, they never did. She’s five and a half now, and she’s always remained a more-or-less well-behaved child, despite other kids. In fact, I’d say she’s picked up better manners at school than I ever taught her.

Then a new kid showed up at school. Her name is Junie B. Jones, and she came in the form of my kid’s first chapter book.

I hate Junie B. Jones.

This isn’t a new complaint, either. Junie B. has apparently been annoying mothers ever since she appeared in 1992. But she’s new to me, so at first I was mystified at why my generally pleasant kid had become increasingly obnoxious. Now when she yells, “Finder keepers, losers weepers!” at her two-year old brother and takes his toy, I know who to blame. When she decided shoe licking would be a fun habit to pick up, I knew who to blame. And when she announced that she’d be calling her grandmother “Grandma Miller,” despite the fact that Grandma isn’t even related to any Millers, I should have already known why.

“Because that’s what Junie B. Jones calls her Grandma,” she said.

I hadn’t actually met the infamous Junie B. until last night. I visited the library and decided to take a look at this beast child for myself. It only got worse.

I picked up Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake. Page one, she decides that because her baby brother is screaming for his bottle, “he needed some discipline.” So she yells, “HEY! SHUT UP YOUR FACE!” Well, now I know why my kid has suddenly decided she’s in charge of her baby brother.

Pages five and six, I declared full-on war against Junie B. Jones with the following sentences: “I winned all of those games, too!”, “I’M THE BESTEST WINNN-ERRR,” and “‘Cause winning is the funnest thing I love.”

First of all, because it’s clearly not helping my little bad winner get better at personal celebration. But second, because I detest children’s books with bad grammar, even if it is with the intention of writing dialogue like a five-year-old. I’ve already lived through the phase where she spoke in the third person because Elmo did. I thought it was over. But lately her grammar has been declining. I thought it was my imagination–maybe I was just noticing more odd verb conjugations and incorrect superlatives. Now I’m adding it to the list of things I blame Junie B. for.

I also add the whole affair with Junie B. to the list of things that have moved from “I’ll never do that when I’m a parent” to “Oh yeah, I might have done that.” Even now, I’m culturally illiterate when it comes to cats in hats, Sneetches, Loraxes, Grinches, and the assorted adventures of an elephant named Horton, all because my mother–English teacher by day–thought Dr. Seuss was nonsense and refused to read it to me. I had to sneak Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends out of the library because she didn’t know when I requested Silverstein that he had moved on from his more adult work. That said, she probably wouldn’t have been a fan of Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook.

Reading is top of my list of important childhood skills, so I certainly don’t want to discourage it. And I don’t want to be the household censor either. But if I never hear the words “but that’s what Junie B. Jones does” again, it’ll be too soon.

Maybe it’s a little melodramatic to say these books are ruining my life. But I’m pretty sure that’s what Junie B. Jones would have to say about it.

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46 thoughts on “Junie B. Jones Is Ruining My Life

  1. Junie B. Jones gets kids excited about reading, and that is NEVER a bad thing. Banning humorous books because of bad grammar is like . . . banning Dr. Seuss because he deals with nonsense. You end up with humorless adults.

    1. Junie B Jones gets kids excited about reading. So does Fancy Nancy, Amelia Bedelia, Judy Blume books, and the Pinkalicious series. And those are funny with characters and circumstances kids can relate to. What Junie B Jones also does is teach kids its ok to use bad grammar (a battle that must be fought with or without literary encouragment), that there are no consequences for disrespectful behavior, and that kids have just as much authority as adults. If her only good quality is that she gets kids excited about reading, I can think of better.

      **PS – I love Shel Silverstein!

      1. OK, so we disagree on Junie B Jones, but to offer Fancy Nancy as a good alternative? The book featuring a toddler wearing high heels with Marilyn-Monroe-shaped thighs on the cover?

      2. I was a linguistics major in college, and we actually looked at Junie B. Jones, because she talks the way that kids (who are still learning the language) talk.

        And I have to say – It IS okay for kids to use bad grammar when they’re learning to speak. It’s the way they learn the language. Words like “funner” are created by applying the basic rule (add -er to an adj to make it “more”; add -ed to make a verb past tense), before learning all the exceptions (this does not apply to fun/win for arbitrary reasons). All kids go through this linguistic process, including those of us who appreciate grammar today.

        1. Kate–I think it’s interesting that the class studied it. Did you discuss, as another commenter pointed out, how she isn’t really talking like any five-year-old I know? Her errors are closer to those that my daughter made when she was three or early four. IMO by the time they’re reading for themselves, proper grammar becomes even more important to model. I know even as an adult, the constructions and spellings I see have an influence on my own writing. I’m firmly convinced that reading too much online is making me spell worse. 🙂

  2. I never said I wanted to ban books. But beyond bad grammar, this kid is rude and obnoxious and at least in my case, encourages tiny readers to act the same way.

    1. Oh my word, I just read my first ever Junie B. Jones book to my 5 year old daughter. I was horrified, not because of the grammar, although that did surprise me, but because of the attitude that was being portrayed by Junie B. Jones. These books have a target audience of 5-7 year old girls, who happen to be extremely susceptible at that age. I will definitely ban Junie B. Jones from my house. If my daughter starts behaving in a poor manner because of a character in a book then there is something gravely wrong with those books.

  3. My daughter brought home one of these from school. I gave it a quick read and said that she had a lot of better choices and said “no more” to these. She loves to read, but there are definitely better books for a kid her age. And Robert, the reason for keeping them out wasn’t the grammar (though it is poor), it was the main character’s attitude. I don’t want to encourage my kid to ever act that way, even if it is in a book. There are better choices. We chose to investigate those.

    Totally agree, Ruth. This is part of our job as parents. It’s not a ban – other kids can read them as much as they want and their parents let them. It’s our household saying “no”.

    1. I do not think Junie B. leads to bad behavior, but please, DO NOT recommend this if all your child knows is starting school. More for my 2nd grade daughter, Julia Jane Trier, than for someone younger than Grade 2.

  4. My daughter has never had any particular interest in the Junie B books, but I would not be keen on letting her read them. It would certainly come with a long discussion about respectful language and what makes something funny. We have enough trouble with bad attitude and little brother bullying as it is! And I strongly disagree with the first commenter’s sentiment that anything that gets kids excited to read is a good thing. I believe education should be more than just traditional academics and should include socio-emotional skills that will help kids thrive. Books that are interfering with that aspect of their education & development are not necessarily a good thing.

  5. I love Dr. Seuss. I hate Junie B.

    Junie is spoiled and terrible and teaches bad manners. The writing is also terrible.

    That being said, your children will soon move on. As a chapter book reader, she will soon see there is more out there that is much better than Junie.

    Be glad she doesn’t like Wimpy Kid. Just as bad if not worse. My son loves those books 🙁

  6. I had to ban Junie B at my house. My daughter was mimicking the bad grammar and I just couldn’t bear it. There are so many good books to choose from and no reason to tolerate such obnoxious ones.

    I disagree with the Dr Seuss analogy. Nonsense is to be encouraged but not bad grammar or bad attitudes.

  7. It’s just as good of an idea to teach your children how to filter and make smart choices, as it is to watch what your children read. Life is full of people with bad grammar and bad behaviors. Teach your children how to deal and function with most of the people they will meet. Don’t turn them into grammarnazis by only allowing them to experience a “perfect” setting from a book.
    Whereas a parent will always worry about influence from other sources, be the sort of parent who influences more and not the parent who can’t find ways to make a negative experience into a learning experience.
    Have a book banning be your last option.

  8. I find it sad your mother thought reading ‘nonsense’ from Dr. Seuss was a bad thing for a child. It also bothers me that you seem to take pride in being culturally ignorant of such a legendary children’s author, and are passing that ‘legacy’ on as a parent. You should already have read those books to your daughter, but it’s not too late to start. Is it too popular to be cool enough for you? Kids don’t need hipster parents.

    I managed to read every Junie B. book to 2 daughters and neither acted out because of it. I did re-compose it on the fly to edit out the bad grammar. Authors usually screw up when trying to write ‘authentically’ dialogue for children. “I runned to her speedy quick” – no kid talks like that.

    1. Joe–reading a bit much into what I wrote? I didn’t say I was proud. I just haven’t read them. I think parents tend to want to share with their kids the books they read. I loved Amelia Bedelia and plenty of others. My favorite book was called Euphonia and the Flood. And I’ve read a Dr. Seuss here or there. She’s read some to herself. I’m not sure how that gets me declared a hipster parent. I think that might be the first time I’ve ever been accused of being one!

  9. Hurrah for you… I’ve despised Junie B. since a theater I worked for made it into a play. And my daughter was only two at the time. I’ve donated every copy that has been given to my children. I campaigned against it when the school where I’m a teacher read it to the Kindergarten. It was the best day of my life when my then 1st grader told me about a Junie B. book and I said she was welcome to read it, but I would not read it to her and after working her way through it, she said, “Wow, that wasn’t very good.” and went on to read the Chronicles of Narnia instead. I love books. I use to think there is worth in every book. I’ve gotten upset with my mother when she pooh-pooh books I read to my children. I would gladly recycle every Junie B. book out there.

  10. I banned Junie after reading a few pages to my daughter. I would never allow my daughter to speak like that, so why read a book about an obnoxious little girl with a bad mouth? Give me Green Eggs & Ham any day. Judy Moody is great. Anything from Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary. Amelia Bedelia annoys me.

  11. Manners and civility is important and there are lots of choices so you tell or ask them to choose something else. To me it is not that big of a deal and my children when asked/told to pick something else most of the time did so with no hesitation. If you have noticed the newspaper comic has gone in this direction not only in dialog but also in art. I married into a family of at least four generations of woman who have master degrees in child development and it is always an interesting time then the topic of children’s literature is discussed.

  12. My daughter read one or two of those. Her first reaction: “Junie B Jones isn’t very smart.” We talked a little — would you want to be friends with Junie B. Jones? do you think she makes good choices? is she fun to read about? — and she was on to the Rainbow Fairies, which I found cloying, tedious and repetitious but not as annoying as Junie B.

  13. Holy cow! Such hate for Junie B! Both of my daughters loved the Junie B. books and we read them together as bedtime stories. Both have since outgrown them and moved on to more teen-based novels, but even years later, one of us will say something that Junie B. said in one of the books and we’ll all get at the very least a good smile out of it.

    And neither of my kids have any anti-social or behavioral issues that can be traced to Junie B. More likely, they’ll be able to trace them back to either my wife or me.

  14. The egregious grammar in Junie B. Jones isn’t age-accurate; it’s a nauseatingly cutsefied version of a precocious three-year-old. Our voracious 6-yo reader went through a few after it was inappropriately recommended on an internet reading list. She soon lost interest. Now I’d no more give her this terrible writing than I would allow her to speak baby talk.

  15. My goddaughter is 11. She’s had a rough life and has been in the hospital several times recently because of her bi-polar. She made me extremely happy during her last visit when she asked me for books: Junie b. Jones (which I’m guessing she picked up at school, or maybe one of her younger siblings) and “more books like the ones [I] brought her last time.” I thought about Junie B. Jones, I really did, and this article makes me happier that I went with her other request–more books by Richard Peck. Much better influence, I hope!!

  16. I am SO glad my daughter is not into this series! I wasn’t too thrilled with the character, the plots or terrible grammar that went into this series. I won’t stop my daughter from reading it but I would try and urge her that these books in NO way represent real life circumstances of how a child should react to things. Although I know that’s sometimes tough for a kid to follow at first. Thank god my daughter loves the Fancy Nancy series, Pinkalicious and My dog Marlie. She likes animal stories too but I’m just glad she never got into this series. I will be sure to try and urge her to read Judy Blume and Harry Potter before I let her touch Junny B Jones.

  17. As a preschool teacher, we understand that children sometimes need to work through bad grammar while they are figuring it all out, the same way they fiddle around with invented spelling till they learn the standard spelling of a certain word.

    However I would not recommend a child who is still learning grammar and sentence structure to be presented with an example of bad grammar – esp. in a book. To a child a book is the epitome of good writing! The only way I would get around this would be to read the book with a child and talk about the language used. This can turn into a conversation about learning to choose the right books if the child is mature and old enough.

    Children get enough bad influence from the world as it is, let’s try to lessen the impact where we can. I would not voluntarily place my child under bad influence when she will most likely be faced with it the moment she walks out the door anyways. I’d rather turn my energy to helping her interpret and work through any bad influences she is already encountering.

  18. i find that the appeal of Junie B and Wimpy Kids for my child is that they get away with stuff he would never dream of trying. I also find that they make great conversation starters. If I can discuss behavior issues in the context of what Junie does, instead of what my child has done wrong, it imparts the same lesson without the tension of reprimanding my son. The secret is being proactive and having the conversation before the bad behavior manifests itself. It’s hard to read everything your child reads in order to know what you maybe dealing with, but it is essential. Keep in mind ,too, that there are services such as commonsense media.org that have done a lot of your homework for you.

  19. I was looking at ALA’s top 100 banned books of 2000-2009 and found Junie B. was #71.

  20. I’m reading the Junie B. Jones books out loud to my daughter. We’ve already read the Ramona series (up until age 9, when the action started dying down and the plots went over my 5 year old’s head) so we’re happily diving into Junie B.

    I fix the grammar as I read–no runned, slided, or anything else that I can breeze over and correct. I read in an obnoxious, disrespectful voice (hey, it’s Junie B herself!) and my daughter gets a huge kick out of it. At really bad/shocking spots, she’ll gasp and I’ll drop my Junie B. character and ask, “Is that a good thing to do?” It usually leads to a discussion about how awful Junie B is, and how she’s being mean/disrespectful/disobedient/etc.

    I’m okay with it because I’m in control of the book–and make shocked/over-the-top faces while reading it–and edit the grammar. Would I hand it to her when she learns to read? NEVER!

    I would be outraged if her school was reading these books to her class without guiding the students through a few “Should you act like this? What should Junie have done instead?” discussions. I can see how if they were laughed off by adults, then kids would think Junie B. is awesome and try to act more like her (and see what they can get away with).

  21. The problem I have with these books besides the fact that JBJ is an obnoxious brat is that they were given to my daughter by my inlaws, who think the books are hilarious. My sil is a teacher too. Her daughter read them and is a straight A perfect specimen of a kid, so she thinks my kid should read them. They are the types that get really offended and would be if I said I didn’t want my child reading such drivel. I would never hear the end of it and it would be held against me for the rest of my life. My husband says nothing because he is a wimp when it comes to his family. I take the approach of editing and actually making them seem boring while introducing her to other choices.

  22. My wife and I have 6 year old twins (boy & girl) who are both advanced readers. JBJ was recommended to our daughter by her teacher, who thought she should be reading chapter books. Of course our son then wanted to read these books as well. So they both began to read them independently (uh oh). Here are the results of this “uncontrolled” experiment:

    Both kids really enjoy Junie. However, while our daughter reads them and takes them for what they are, we have discovered–to our complete and utter dismay–that our son has begun to emulate Junie’s behavior and language. For instance, he’s calling everything “stupid”, and also has called some of his fellow kindergarteners “stupid”.

    So I think, at the very least, Junie B. Jones books require parental guidance, and barring that, it really depends on the maturity level of the child (I know, obvious).

    I have, as of tonight, banned my son from reading JBJ independently. He’s not happy. I personally think they’re well written, but it’s asking A LOT for a kid to read about this girl who bullies her way through the day without consequence and understand that it’s not ok to do as she does.

  23. I never had a problem with Junie B. Jones. My then 4, then 5 then 6 year old never picked up any of Junie’s characteristic speech patterns, nor her bossiness or any other of her behaviors. Being a mother for more than 20 years and studying child development has convinced me that things like “bossiness” seems to be a character trait, not something a child “picks up” from reading a few books.

    Of course, I read some of the books to her and sat with her while she read them to herself. We laughed at Junie’s antics together and there were never any problems with my youngest child wanting to act like Junie, knowing she was just a fictional character in a book.

    Maybe it’s not the books that are the problem. From raising my older children, I knew a lot of parents who would blame other children for “getting (their) kid in trouble” when the behaviors were simply their child making their own poor choices. I hardly think a few short lived grammar errors are something to complain about, but along with the bossiness and “rudeness” I am thinking perhaps some children make their own choices to act like this, and then parents look pathetically and frantically around for something to blame their little darlings less than perfect behaviors on.

    Don’t blame Junie.

  24. I just wanted to add one thing: . Also, my daughter, even at 4, when she started reading Junie, had enough common sense not to do things like lick shoes….. so there’s that.

  25. I have two children, one is 18 and one is 12. Both loved Junie B (beginning in preschool), both spent many hours enjoying the outrageous antics of Junie B, both are honor students with no disciplinary problems. It’s not Junie B that leads to improper behavior or bad grammar usage.

  26. Look at the reading level: 2nd grade. I would somewhat recommend Junie B. Jones, but ONLY with me present. Junie B. is poorly behaved and teaches the words we don’t like–“hate”, “crap”, “dum-dum”, “cunt”. The grammar is that of a second-grader.
    Without me, Junie B. Jones is NOT ALLOWED in my house. I would recommend second-grader Julia Jane Kuraki [born August 21 on the Year of the Rabbit] read a book about relations with the U.S. and Japan [heck, Julia’s of Japanese heritage!], BUT NOT Junie B. Jones. Julia, at age 6 [7 in Japanese years], WILL NOT read Junie B. Jones. I would SPANK poor Julia for the disrespectful and obnoxious talk portrayed by Junie B. Jones.
    That’s why when Julia was in preschool, she went to People’s Church Preschool because religious preschools tend to be stricter about baby talk. For K, Julia went to Marble and had Mrs. Sung, for 1st, Julia went to Wilkshire, and now, in 2nd, Julia goes to Murphy.

  27. We had Julia start early because we didn’t want her to be the oldest. You’re right; Julia could have been one of the oldest children in her grade, BUT for poor Julia, that would be a problem for her.
    Her first name is Julia, her middle name is Jane, and her last name is Kuraki. Julia does not talk funny because she came here at preschool age.
    We follow the reading level. Julia can ONLY read Junie B. with me, because I don’t want her to pick up bad behavior [poor Julia!] Julia will be in second grade at Murphy, and she is NOT ALLOWED to interrupt someone at a meeting, use profanity, or act obnoxious. Part of transitioning from Mrs. Sung’s K room at Marble to the 2nd grade room at Murphy is maturity. Mrs. Sung was more tolerant towards interrupting, but that’s because the kindergarteners are younger.

  28. When Julia was in K, she remembered Mrs. Sung, who was American, pale-skinned, blue-eyed, and had blondish brown hair, as in dark yellow hair. Mrs. Sung had a husband from Taiwan, who had brown hair, black eyes, dark skin, and a slight build. Julia herself was Japanese-adopted, but picked up a U.S. accent.
    Mrs. Sung’s eyes were blue, her skin was fair, and her hair was blondish brown.

  29. Candy, who is 7 or 8 yr old Sagittarius girl going into Grade 4, is NOT ALLOWED to read “Junie B. Jones.” I mean, I’ve let Candy say, “This bag is so stupid!” or “You’d have to do something darn bad!” or “Crud!” but the reason why I hate Junie B. Jones is because Junie B. is a nuisance; she’s obnoxious.

  30. Candy’s middle name is Jane because Jane means “God’s grace” and has a biblical connotation. Candy’s real name, Candice, means “woman of repentance” and has a biblical connotation. Kim, her last name, is of Buddhist origin.
    Yes, Candy is Catholic. As a good Catholic, she will NOT read “Junie B. Jones” because since Catholics believe in purgatory, a book about an obnoxious child is NOT acceptable.

  31. I just did a search to see if any other mother’s hated Junie B. Jones, the annoying little snot… I was gifted this and just finished reading to my 4 and 5 year old children. I have to admit u corrected all of the grammatical errors I could and I even “corrected” Junie’s behavior in a made up addition to the story. NEVER AGAIN. Uhhh

  32. I am a former kindergarten teacher and now a speech-language pathologist who works primarily with students with social language and behavioral disorders. I read Junie B. books aloud to my regular ed kindergarteners in the past, and continue to use particular chapters and sections for units targeting particular social language skills, grammar, vocabulary, etc. These books are such excellent teaching tools it’s hard for me to think of a language target for which they DON’T work. Read alouds are meant to be used as teaching and discussion tools. In the case of Junie B., her grammar and behavior are so over the top ridiculous (and yet relatable) to even 5 year olds, that they can discuss the problems with her choices and her language uses easily, with just a bit of scaffolding from me. We use Yucky Blucky Fruitcake to talk about rules and the reasons why we need them the first week of school. We use Smelly Bus to talk about social introductions, unwritten conversational rules, and, of course, tackling fears. We use First Grader at Last to talk about handling social rejection, problem solving, peer relationships, and, as always, tackling fears. Everyone of my students, even 5 year olds with language impairments, can relate to Junie’s problems and feel smart when they can talk about what Junie B. and her classmates are doing wrong. I would never tell parents that they are reading to their children “wrong”, but I am sorry so many parents appear to be missing the opportunity to use these books to talk with their children about life and maybe laugh a bit along with them. If the characters in your books are already perfect there’s little to say about them (and they’re probably not very funny, relatable, or fun to read). Another good example of this, for even younger children, is Olivia. She is REALLY something.

  33. Don’t any of you remember reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing as a child? Remember Fudge, the rude/obnoxious little brother? Fudge stuck a booklet full of postage stamps all over the new baby. Remember how funny and cheeky that Ramona was in the Beverly Cleary books? Ramona squeezed a whole tube of toothpaste into the sink and refused to eat her dinner (resulting in the “eat it or wear it” bathtub standoff with her father). I can’t believe I still remember these scenes from my favorite childhood books! A little humor, irreverence, and a character that thinks like a real child never hurt anyone. Books like these and Junie B. Jones create lifelong readers and capture the magic of childhood. Books like these do not create illiterate adults and rude children.

  34. Yup we had some of those given to us and I am donating them. My 6 year old has taken some out of the library and sure enough, she copies the bad behaviors. She copied them from public school, too. By December we didn’t even know her anymore. She normally speaks like a 12 year old (not kidding) but by break time her 3 year old sister had a better vocabulary and better manners. She’s home schooled now and is back to her 6… er.. 12 year old self. We had many other reasons of course, but the vocabulary regression was a glaring problem.

  35. Keep in mind that those books aren’t written for 30 or 40-something parents…they’re written for single-digit *kids*…who *will grow out of it eventually. But it’s not fair to expect them to start out on King Lear. They want to hear stories about *kids*…kids who may or may not be like them…imperfect in behavior and grammar.

    Besides…we went through the JBJ books too…twice, with two daughters almost ten years apart; and the important thing is that while she may not speak the Queen’s English, and may not have Judith Martin’s manners, there is always a lesson to be learned at the end.

    But once again, remember that those books aren’t written for *you*. You’ll need to keep this in mind when you encounter Barney, Teletubbies, and the like. Of course they’re annoying for *you*…you’re not the intended audience. But for an amazingly short time (trust me, it goes really fast), your kid *is* the intended audience, and this is the series that he or she loves.

    Hey…they could be reading “Lady Chatterly’s Lover.” I understand that’s much better written…on the other hand, some of the behavior leaves a lot to be desired.

  36. I can’t say I like Junie B. That being said; I can’t say I like censors either. Many years ago, I bought friends’ kids a copy of “The Pushcart War”, which the kids never saw because it had war in the title. The Pushcart War is fought with pea shooters, and ends in a negotiated peace. A few months later I gave the same kids Robert Heinlein’s “Red Planet”. Heinlein was a screaming reactionary, who loved guns, fighting, and the concept of a military society. But my friends didn’t know that. And the book didn’t have war in the title. So their boys read it. I read “Red Planet” too, when I was 12. I thought it was a lot of hooey. Mostly because it is. Be glad your kid is reading.

  37. I got a call today from my 6 year old’s teacher. She informed me that my once well behaved child was being disruptive, rude, and had attitude.
    We started reading Junie B books nightly about 10 days ago. I don’t think it is a coincidence.

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