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February 28, 2006 12:03 AM

Broken: Dummies book title

Teaching_coverEmily Birch sends in a picture of the cover of a book:

"Teaching Kids to Read for Dummies" is one title that the "Dummies" folks should have skipped.

Dummies probably shouldn't be teaching kids to read.

Or are the kids going to read to the dummies?


Humorous at first glance, yes. But this book has probably helped more than a few parents provide that extra help their child needed to learn to read. What's wrong with that? Not broken.

Posted by: Ron Mexico at February 28, 2006 12:37 AM

What would have been more ironic and much more broken would be "Reading For Dummies."

Posted by: Steve at February 28, 2006 04:14 AM

"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Self Esteem" is another good title.

Posted by: CommanderFalafel at February 28, 2006 07:19 AM

Why do you not want kids to read, dummy parents or no?

Posted by: Jim King at February 28, 2006 08:09 AM

Mildly amusing, definatley, but not broken. The "for dummies" books arent being literal, its just a chatchy name they can give their informative books. Not Broken.

Posted by: Ethan Skinner at February 28, 2006 08:10 AM

if the teacher is someone who could be considered a dummy, there needs to be someone else to teach the kid. if you get screwed over on learning to read you'll be behind the rest of your education.

would you like someone with a dummies book teaching you how to parachute? if the answer is yes then not broken.

Posted by: gmangw at February 28, 2006 08:59 AM

'What would have been more ironic and much more broken would be "Reading For Dummies."'

Unless it were a picturebook.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at February 28, 2006 09:11 AM

I saw some "(fill in serious ailment) For Dummies" books the other day in the book store of the medical school where I work. Sure doesn't raise my level of confidence in my doctor...

Posted by: matt at February 28, 2006 09:33 AM

Mildly broken in an amusing manner.

Then there's The Complete Idiot's Guide To Astrology (a real book).

Completely broken or just truth in advertising? You be the judge.

Posted by: Steve at February 28, 2006 09:47 AM

Not broken- given the high numbers of teenage mothers who dont finish high school, this is a good way to relate methods and teach both parent and child- title is slightly insulting in the most accurate of ways though.

Posted by: smartypants at February 28, 2006 10:11 AM

The "Dummies" books (including the medical ones) let the buyer know that they are written in plain English that the common man can understand. For example "Diabetes for Dummies" means a regular person like me will be able to understand it versus a medical text that you need a PhD to understand.

Perhaps the "Teaching Kids to Read for Dummies" is for parents who don't have teaching degrees, but want to know how to give their children a head-start in learning to read.

I'm not offended by the "for Dummies" part of the title, nor by the "Idiots Guide to..." because I know that it will be written in such a way that I won't have to keep a dictionary or college professor on-hand to help me understand the text.

Posted by: SillyGirl at February 28, 2006 10:43 AM

These dummies books are horrendous. I spied someone at B&N reading "alzheimer's for dummies" -- horrific. Don't believe me?

Posted by: Stephen at February 28, 2006 12:29 PM


Why is that a bad thing? If someone has a family member with Alzheimer's Disease and they want to know more about it, this is an ideal option. Would you prefer the family instead pore over a pile of complicated medical books and learn nothing? If I had a relative with a disease such as that, I'd greatly appreciate a reference written for the lay person to understand. It's scary enough to have a relative that's sick without adding to it the complication of trying to understand complex medical terms that you need a degree in medicine to interpret.

Posted by: SillyGirl at February 28, 2006 01:04 PM

The one I keep searching for in the libraries and bookstores is "Mensa for Dummies." Strange, I can't seem to find it anywhere... ( :

Posted by: Amber at February 28, 2006 01:19 PM

Silly, I mean the titles. The irony.... it creates a sad situation. The books I'm sure are helpful -- the titles are unfortunate.....

Posted by: Stephen at February 28, 2006 02:41 PM

Check out German Phrases for Dummies. This reminds me of that foreign kid in Can't Hardly Wait who says "Would you like to touch my penis?"

Posted by: Capt. Wafer at February 28, 2006 02:50 PM

I get so confused sometimes. Do I want the 'Idiots guide...' or the '.... For Dummies'. I cant figure out if I am an idiot or a dummy.

As for this post, I say a book 'Teaching Kids to Read for Dummies' is not broken, until the kid learns how to read the word 'Dummies'. Then he'd probably find another teacher on his own.

Posted by: Sam I am at February 28, 2006 03:26 PM

Do you want to teach kids how to read to dummies? I don't either. That's why the book is awesome.

Posted by: _______ at February 28, 2006 03:49 PM

The "For Dummies" in the title refers to an expression.

Someone who has tried to learn something by taking a course or reading a standard text on the subject, without having the necessary background, might say "I feel like such a dummy for not understanding this".

These books are for them.

Posted by: Sean P at February 28, 2006 04:53 PM

The "for Dummies" series started with a series of books on using personal computers ("DOS for Dummies" is one of the first I remember, but there was also Macs, PCs, Windows, etc., "for Dummies"). At the time, the perception in the general population was that you had to be some sort of mathematical whiz kid to use a computer (it was the '80s, after all). The brilliant marketing move (no sarcasm intended -- it worked!) of the "for Dummies" series was to pitch the books as if they were intended for someone of *below* average intelligence, making your average Joe feel comfortable that he could buy the book and actually understand it.

If anything is broken, it's that the series was too successful, and now the brand name is so strong and the publishers are so familiar with the phrase that they don't stop and think how titles like "Teaching Kids to Read for Dummies" sound. (My personal favourite is "Raising Smart Kids for Dummies"!) It's mostly just amusing, but I think when it comes to titles like "Alzheimer's for Dummies" it's beginning to border on the tasteless, at least.

Posted by: E.T. at February 28, 2006 05:06 PM

>>The one I keep searching for in the libraries >>and bookstores is "Mensa for Dummies." >>Strange, I can't seem to find it anywhere...

As a Mensa member I always thought that it was funny that Mensa means stupid in Spanish.

Posted by: Dennis at February 28, 2006 06:56 PM

Sorry to interrupt, MensaMan, but doesn't mensa mean, like, table or something? Or is it some obscure slang of some sort?

Posted by: nick'd at February 28, 2006 07:57 PM

If I bought this for my family I know my kid would be offended. Who wants to be called a DUMMIE?...particularily if one is already struggling. They could have used a bit of sensitivity on this one.

Posted by: :-( at February 28, 2006 09:07 PM

Did you know that there a slot machine called

Winning for dummies. I have play this slot machine at Casino rama in Orilla Ontario and Nigara fall ontario at fallsview casino. latley i have been very lucky with this slot machine. Try nextime when you at the casino near you. good luck

Posted by: Rob Polanic at February 28, 2006 09:38 PM

Nick'd, you're thinking of mesa (no n before the s). Mensa most certainly does not mean table.

Better luck next time, though.

Posted by: The Pondermatic at February 28, 2006 10:15 PM

How about the phrase '...progress a child from sounds to words...'

Tell me THAT's not a broken use of the word progress, especially in a book designed to teach others how to read. Will they 'advantage' their readers as well? Ugh, I wonder if the kids will learn to write good little marketing copy like this?

On another note, I've always found the tagline for the Dummies books - A Reference for the Rest of Us! - to be mildly amusing. If the 'rest of us' are 'Dummies,' I'll take it as a compliment when I don't buy the book. :)

Posted by: Michael McWatters at February 28, 2006 10:20 PM

You could do worse.

For example there is this classic:

Posted by: J. Scott at February 28, 2006 10:26 PM

With how confusing and conflicting some teacher preparation programs can be on dealing with literacy, I don't see how this is such a bad guide.

Posted by: student teacher at February 28, 2006 10:47 PM

Ohh wow a book for Government School Teachers.. LOL...

Posted by: infinity306 at February 28, 2006 11:05 PM

Looks like someone should buy nick'd a copy of "Spanish for Dummies" ...

Posted by: E.T. at March 1, 2006 11:35 AM


the Mensa club has that name so that spanish speaking people will not try to join up.

Posted by: Do_oh at March 1, 2006 03:30 PM

To the person who asked, yes Mensa means table in latin.

Posted by: Dennis at March 2, 2006 11:25 AM

According to an online Spanish English dictionary, menso and mensa means dummy or jerk. Go figure!

Posted by: Amber at March 2, 2006 12:52 PM

Michael McW - what's wrong with using the verb "progress"? It means to advance, proceed, or improve. I don't think they meant it as a noun.

Posted by: Amber at March 2, 2006 12:59 PM

...and why no "Ventriloquism for Dummies"?

Posted by: Carl at March 5, 2006 07:37 PM

Might be a good book - but I would expect something like, "Washing Dishes for Dummies" soon... With, think about it, useful details about different sink characteristics, wash cloth vs. sponge, proper stature, the right shoes, proper illumination, water temperatures for washing and rinsing, soap concentration and mixing techniques, stacking for minimum drying time... HEY! I think I have a book idea!!!

Posted by: Thomas at March 7, 2006 03:00 PM

Just wait until they can read. That'll be discouraging :)

Posted by: Matt at March 26, 2006 11:24 PM

ha ha Carl!

and Steve how about Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe - For Dummies? or how about "Getting Pictures on for Dummies"?

Posted by: Kris at March 30, 2006 08:11 PM

It wasn't posted in "Broken", it was posted in "Miscellaneous"

Posted by: joe at March 31, 2006 03:36 PM

Nevermind that first comment that I posted. I didn't know what I was talking about.

Anyway, what's really broken is that part on the bottom left. It says "the author of See Johnny Read: The 5 Most Effective Ways to End Yours Son's Reading Problems" Is she assuming that girls don't have reading problems?

Posted by: joe at April 22, 2006 04:56 PM

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