Monday, July 31, 2006

How's this for a crock … - Opinion Journal:

"That such [series] books might keep kids reading is a meager defense. If that's the point, asks Mary Burgess, a professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, "Why not have them read cereal boxes?" Such lists, by offering mere "formula fiction," represent "a lost opportunity," she says. "They put kids into a real comfort zone."

Well, we really wouldn't want kids to be in a comfort zone would we? No, that should be reserved entirely for adults. Adults are here to make children suffer, so they can "learn".

Our best selling series The Legends was ignorantly bagged by some tired academic in the Australian Book Review on the grounds it was "comfort food". It is a bestselling series because kids want to read it and it's been so powerful that it's started the habit of reading for pleasure for some children. Bagging "comfort" reading has become such a critical cliche.

The Opinion Journal goes on to say
"Why not assign books that ask students to use their imaginations? Generations of young people have enjoyed classics like "Black Beauty," "Little Women," and "The Wind in the Willows." Why should kids today be any different?"

Well, kids today are different. The world has changed — a lot. But let's stick our heads in the sand and keep them there. Let's try and force kids to read what was published for their grandmothers and great-grandmothers as children. I loved Wind and the Willows as a child, but when I settled down to read it to my eldest I realised it was all over the place structurally - it needed a decent edit.

And thanks to Lil for the link


lili said...

David Fickling has a lovely word for series books: readermakers.

They may not be full of Moral Fibre or Challenging Vocabulary, but they are easy to read, and teach kids that reading can be fun. And that gives them the courage and confidence to pick up other books.

Andrew's black dog blog said...

yeah. And I like David's use of those caps.

Lee said...

I devoured series books as a kid. I think the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys taught me to read. But one of the worst assumptions in the WSJ article is that contemporary books don't ask kids to use their imaginations. Depends on the books.

And the second assumption: that's it's an either/or choice. There really are kids who read both, and I can distinctly remember enjoying a lot of the classics like Moby Dick at the same time as my lighter stuff. And my SF reading stimulated my imagination to no end.

Andrew, you will notice that I am carefully refraining from discussing your desire to edit Wind and the Willows to your own expectations.

Andy said...

Can anything make the blood boil quite so quickly as a narrow-minded review?

"Comfort reading" should be embraced in an age where children's attentions are fractured between a myriad of electronic devices, television, videos and DVDs.