Sunday, 18 October 2009

A love of reading...

I know the quote below is quite old now, and of course the National Literacy Strategy is being abandoned - in it's current form at least. However, I can't help thinking there is so much truth in these words.

I was an avid reader until I came to take exams in literature; I loved doing those exams, but pulling apart sentences and characters drove out any enjoyment I had of reading. The oppressive feeling of needing to strip down and analyse a book still niggles at the back of my mind 30+ years on. I love books and literature, but the feeling that I should only be reading worthy or current or classic 'works' never goes away, like some stern teacher looking over my shoulder...

Philip Pullman, Oxford Literary Festival in 2003
"What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it’s “slaves’ work, unredeemed.” Those who design this sort of thing seem to have completely forgotten the true purpose of literature, the everyday, humble, generous intention that lies behind every book, every story, every poem: to delight or to console, to help us enjoy life or endure it. That’s the true reason we should be giving books to children. The false reason is to make them analyse, review, comment and so on. But they have to do it – day in, day out, hour after hour, this wretched system nags and pesters and buzzes at them, like a great bluebottle laden with pestilence. And then all the children have to do a test; and that’s when things get worse. "


Carol said...

This is really interesting. When I withdrew the children from school, they didn't want to read or write. I wondered if they should be writing book reports, analysing texts etc, as they would be doing at school. But I couldn't bring myself to make them.

Over the last few years they have become avid readers, and the older ones have began to "analyse" some of the texts they read, in their own way and purely for their own enjoyment!

I was "good" at English at school, yet I never read - didn't even read the set texts for O level and A level English Lit! Just memorised the relevant quotes for exams/essays......what more can I say!

Carolyn said...

Oh Carol! Ditto on all points!!! I never read my set texts either!
And Bmf I always feel like that too...stops me from reading lots of stuff. I still have a who;e shelf of worthy reading matter I have collected but not yet read!!!