Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Fifty books a year

is what the UK Education Secretary is apparently proposing that children (or, more correctly, young people) should read. You will find an article here.
Now I have no problems with anyone reading fifty books a year - or even more. I do wonder where young people would find the time to read that many books.
It may be different in the UK, indeed I sincerely hope it is, but here the average young person might well find it difficult - or so they tell me.
I keep being told "I don't have time to read."
"Why?" I ask. Then I get a litany of school, homework, sport and other after-school activities.
"Do you want to do all these things?"
"Nope but everyone does it."
When I suggest that they could read for half an hour before they go to bed - or in bed - they tell me that is time for Facebook (or whatever) or tweeting (or whatever) or talking to their friends on the 'phone. They have to "keep up with the goss" (the gossip) and, no doubt, create new gossip.
It is also "uncool" to read. If they do read they do not want to talk about it. You can talk about footy, soccer, the latest group or song, the way someone dresses and what you did (or pretended to do) over the weekend. It is also more important to be seen "hanging out" at the local shopping centre after school. It is, after all, why the icecream counter, the sushi shop and the various hot chip providers exist. There is also plenty of homework "the teachers really pile it on".
I rather suspect much more work could be done in school. Even allowing for gross exaggeration I am aware that more time is wasted now than in the past. We did eight and then nine forty minute periods of face-to-face teaching with five minutes in between plus lunch and a ten minute break halfway through the morning. We had to be there. Now they need not be there unless they have classes. They do five subjects as opposed to our seven or eight. In the UK they do even more.
My goddaughter, almost 16, plays the cello in an orchestra, sings, is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, on her student representative council and managed to get outstanding GCSE "O"s last year. She also reads voraciously. I know she is exceptional but she also thinks reading is "cool".
The question is probably how reading can be made to appear "cool" as an activity for the majority.
As for what they read....that is what libraries are for.


Sheep Rustler said...

Ha! My daughter would read at least 100 books a year, as do I. And if you count manga, my son does too. (There is a lot of dispute among educational type people as to whether or not manga counts. I say it has words, narrative, plot, character development and it encourages people like him to read, therefore it is a book!)

But too many people do not read, it is true. And sad.

Anonymous said...

Why should manga not count? I have looked at it and, while it is not my taste, I can see the appeal for some - especially reluctant male readers. We have some in the local library and it is borrowed by some adults as well as teens.

Sheep Rustler said...

Thank you Anonymous, I like the way you think!

I've just actually read the article and some of the comments following it. I hate the idea of someone producing a list of the 50 books children 'should' read - that's not going to encourage most children but will turn it into a chore instead of a pleasure. And many of the comments point out that many school and public libraries are facing drastic cuts and closures so that it will be difficult for lower socio-economic children to access any books at all.

catdownunder said...

That is what bothered me - the prescriptive nature of a list of books you "should" read. Does it matter if I have not read "Crime and Punishment"? Some people love Russian literature but it is not to my taste so why should I read it?
As for manga? It is not my taste either but other people enjoy it just as some people enjoy Mills and Boon (also not to my taste). They may go on to read other things too.

Katherine Langrish said...

Exactly, Cat! Read widely, encourage wide reading, but not from some list of the "50 best"!