When I first encountered Captain Underpants I was appalled. A book about a guy who wears underpants and talks about poop, pee and all things potty? We aren’t talking the type of potty talk book that we use to encourage potty training. We are talking about potty talk for 8, 9, 10 year olds…the you know better potty talk.
My first few years of teaching, I really fought Captain Underpants. I didn’t want my students reading these books, and I did everything in my power to move them toward others, but they always went back to wanting to read Captain Underpants. Every time I would stuff Captain Underpants to the back of the bookshelf, someone would dig it out.
I worked in an all-boys school, and Captain Underpants and Calvin & Hobbs, were everywhere. Boys would wait in the front hall in the morning, not yet allowed to go into their classrooms, with their head buried in a Captain Underpants book. Some boys would read them at recess, others during free time. What was happening here? Was potty talk taking over this generation? I was so upset by this.
Then it hit me. While they were reading books that I may have found less than adequate for their growing brains, they were reading. They were reading a LOT, and enjoying it. Boys who hated to read, boys who were not reading at grade level, and boys who were reluctant readers, were ALL reading.
And then, as fast as they had discovered the series, they were done and ready to move on. Captain Underpants was passed down to the next group of boys for their own fun with toilets, wedgies and farts.
While we have certain books that may not be suitable, in our heads, for our children, it is often those books that get them to read because they are interesting and funny. Be flexible with your children and encourage reading, no matter the material (as long as it is geared toward kids).
I promise, your child will not linger on this material for too long. Like all things, this stage of reading will pass. In the meantime, embrace the humor, have fun with it, and enjoy watching your child dive into a book.
I leave you with this quote by Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series.
“It’s been said that adults spend the first two years of their children’s lives trying to make them walk and talk, and the next sixteen years trying to get them to sit down and shut up.
It’s the same way with potty training: Most adults spend the first few years of a child’s life cheerfully discussing pee and poopies, and how important it is to learn to put your pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty like big people do.
But once children have mastered the art of toilet training, they are immediately forbidden to ever talk about poop, pee, toilets and other bathroom-related subjects again. Such things are now considered rude and vulgar, and are no longer rewarded with praise and cookies and juice boxes.
One day you’re a superstar because you pooped in the toilet like a big boy, and the next day you’re sitting in the principal’s office because you said the word “poopy” in American History class (which, if you ask me, is the perfect place to say that word).”
― Dav Pilkey, Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People