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Can book characters have a bad influence?

I love reading with my son.

It started when he was only weeks old, days even.  I can remember not having enough hands to support him and hold a book at the same time.  There’s a picture somewhere of me reading him his first Mr Men book.

Time has changed things a little, or a great deal more accurately, but I still enjoy reading to him.

The things we’ve read over time have transformed, and I guess will always constantly change.  We occasional still read Mr Men books, at nearly eight-years-old my boy is still a fan, as I suppose am I, at 35.
My son, Max, has always chosen our bedtime reading, and his tastes have changed over time, as they do sometimes on a whim, or because of outside influences.

One such period was the discovery of Harry Potter.  Some of his friends introduced him to the fictional wizard, and he also found a key Potter ally in the form of his grandma.

harry potter book
She loves the spectacle donning junior spell castor just as much as Max, and I am grateful for that, as it has meant I have managed to avoid reading much of the books to him.

I don’t particularly enjoy the Harry Potter series, they aren’t stories for me, so it’s good that there is someone close to him that he can share his enthusiasm  for them with.

It was great that he was interested in reading them, and far from put him off I encouraged him to read them, and read them to him myself, when grandma was not around and nothing else would do.

I think it is good for a child, especially to help reluctant reading boys, that they will read anything at all.


This is how I started trying to get my boy hooked on books.



But I think there is a limit to what you are prepared to read with your child, and I may just about have found it.

Max has more recently got interested in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series.  One much heralded for its success with encouraging boys to read, but it is what else they may encourage that I am taking umbrage with.

Basically, and I think we are part way through our fourth book now, I don’t like any of the cast from the principle character’s family.

It could just be me, it could be the intention of the book, but Greg Heffley – the character writing his fictional diary – is not very likeable at all.  Neither is his dad, nor his older brother.

diary of wimp kid

Greg is constantly doing the wrong thing, rarely offers a sincere apology or learns anything at all from his mistakes.

Like when a case of mistaken identity leads to his friend, Rowley, getting punished for something Greg has done.  Greg explains the dilemma of whether to own up to his misdemeanour and face the consequences versus letting it pass and that no one really got hurt.  He explains his conundrum to his mother who leaves it with him, saying he should simply just do the right thing.

He decides that doing 'the right thing' is letting his pal take the flak, that there is no benefit in owning up, and he is rather pleased with himself for making the right call.  He is even rewarded when he tells his mother he did the right thing.

I’m often looking for the sarcasm in the book to actually be meaningful, and for Greg to learn from his ways, but he never seems to, and it is really getting on my nerves (can you tell?).

I worry that far from learn that he shouldn’t follow suit, that my boy could actually start copying this sort of behaviour and in a way feel justified to do so.

But I guess you could argue that kids are sick of books jam packed full of obvious morals that feel like lectures they should be learning from.  Perhaps this way, of using double negatives, children will decide for themselves, that while some of it is funny, perhaps it isn’t the way to behave themselves.

I’m undecided, all I know is that I am in need of trying to convince my son that there are other things we could be reading at bedtime.

And perhaps I should try to not be so grumpy.


Do you think book characters can have a bad influences? What are your experiences? Let us know in the comments box below

3 thoughts on “Can book characters have a bad influence?”

  • Keris Stainton

    I feel the same about the Wimpy Kid books. I kept expecting Greg to get his comeuppance/learn a lesson, but (in the two books we read) he didn't. I don't want my sons reading these books and thinking that's a funny way to behave, but mostly - when there are so many books I want to read with my boys - I don't want to read about such an unapologetic little weasel. I think the films have a much better balance than the books.

  • Ruth Duncan

    Hi Keris
    thanks for your thoughts - its interesting that kids love Wimpy Kid, but they know that he's pretty unpleasant - my son did agree that he wouldn't want to be Greg.
    Is this one of those instances (rare) when the film is better than the book?

  • […] while the books have changed, from cute picture books, to books I’m not sure my son should be reading, we still read together every […]

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