Saturday, 7 May 2011

Those of you who have been reading

my words of (non) wisdom for some time will be aware I like to read books intended largely for children. I also have a reasonable library of older books for children, books that no longer grace the shelves of our local library.
Now I completely understand why those books no longer grace the shelves of our local library. There is no space for them. The old copies would be falling to pieces. They are out of print. Those titles cannot be replaced. Space is needed for new authors.
I agree with all those things. I do not agree with "Kids don't want to read that sort of stuff any more." They do. My collection is used like another library.
I agree writing style has changed. What was written in 19th C sounds different. What was written in the 20th C often sounds different too. Language changes. What does not change is the need for a good story. Children need to lose themselves in a book as much as adults do.
Someone left an anonymous message on this blog yesterday and suggested that there is a gap between what people want to read and what publishers believe they want to read. It is a good point but at least adults can choose what they read and whether they read it.
I no longer read books people thrust in front of me and tell me I "should" or "must" read - unless I decide I want to read it. The result is there are a lot of modern novels I have not read. This may not be a good thing, especially for a writer, but life is too short and there are a lot of things I do want to read in the limited time I have available.
For a child however it is even more difficult. Their potential reading experiences are filtered and refiltered by writers, agents, publishers, parents, teachers, psychologists, librarians and other adults. They are presented with things they "must" or "should" read and "will" (or else) enjoy. What many children are left with is a highly refined choice of reading matter which is not of their own choosing. Reading is seen to be a means of educating the child. It is merely good fortune if it also entertains the child. There is a gap between what the child needs and wants and what adults believe they should have.
Somewhere I think we need a balance. We have to allow children to make at least some mistakes or some choices of their own.

1 comment:

Sheep Rustler said...

I can't wait to get hold of our books out of storage so that I can get hold of my children's book collection and reread some of it! I have just read Tangara by Nan Chauncy and I think it would still appeal to the dreamy child who likes ghost stories, even if it was written 40 or 50 years ago. It is hard for children, I think one of the best things we can do is encourage them to browse, something I have always done with my children. (But then, in conversation with my boss yesterday, explaining how I taught my children to do simple catalogue searches as soon as they were old enough to type, I admitted that they were probably unusual in having such highly literate parents including one ex-librarian, now practising librarian again!)