Archive for the Books Category

On literary snobbery

Posted in Books, Children, General Ranting with tags on March 20, 2014 by pieman70

Sorry about not posting, real life and a big juicy helping of laziness has prevented me so far. Not that I’ve been short of material, just with family, children, work and videogames blogging takes a backseat. Hopefully there will be more regular posts but no promises

Anyway, to what was bugging me.

Freya has been enjoying some books known as the “Rainbow Magic” series. The plots are unimportant, but suffice to say the writing is fairly repetitive, predictable and hackneyed. Then again I’m a man in my 30s and they are broadly aimed at girls in the 7-10 age bracket. Why do I mention this? Aside from a way to subtly boast of my daughter reading above her level it is that recently I have heard teachers in the primary 3 upwards bracket have told children that these books are not to be read as part of school reading.

Now, back in my early secondary school there was a certain mantra often repeated by the English department. “No point horror books”. I never read a point horror book but from what I can ascertain they were a series of horror novels. The English department seemed to feel they lacked the artistic merit or intellectual challenge to have a place in the school.

We live in a world where many don’t read books, and I can’t help this weird snobbery has something to do with it. Effectively the school has told children that, having found books they enjoy they can’t read them any more, worse, this is now being done at an even earlier age. I understand that teachers want people to challenge themselves and read more complex books, preferably erring towards “the classics” but to my mind with these arbitrary bans all they’re doing is cementing reading’s place as something you have to do rather than something that is fun, something that you would do by choice in your own free time.

I also have a gripe about the “classics” how english teachers will shove Austin, Hardy and Bronte down everyone’s throats for personal reading. By all means study them, but they seem genuinely surprised that someone wouldn’t find tales of genteel women in society enchanting.

First and foremost we should be encouraging children to read recreationally, from there on teachers can channel this towards more challenging fare, although this may require them to have a broader knowledge of literature. A kid likes SF? perhaps enjoys trek or 40k tie ins? Why not suggest Clarke, Wells or Asimov? Someone enjoyed the Sharpe series? Try the Aubrey Maturin books. The current one size fits all is putting people off and definitely has no place in a primary school.