Neil Gaiman gave the second annual Reading Agency lecture this week. It was a wonderfully passionate lecture on the power of reading, the roles of libraries,
The Reading Agency announcement has more extracts from the lecture at their site, and hopefully we’ll see the full lecture on You Tube at some point, seeing Gaiman talk of books and reading is always inspiring I find. There’s a transcript of the speech (or a version of it) presented in this Guardian piece.
But I loved how he absolutely nailed the idea of reading and children in just a couple of sentences…..
“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy giving them access to those books and letting them read them.”
“I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children’s books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. I’ve seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was R. L Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy. It’s tosh. It’s snobbery and it’s foolishness.”
“Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.”
That absolutely nails the argument I’ve heard a few times now regarding children and reading. It’s even an argument I’ve had to have a couple of times at school to defend the inclusion of graphic novels and how much enjoyment our children gain from them. A well meaning parent or teacher can see their child power through volume after volume after volume of Tintin, Bone, Babymouse, Gum Girl, Simpsons, Hilda, Rainbow Orchid and countless others, and because they don’t like comics, because they don’t really understand comics, they start to throw barriers up to reading. Reference is invariably made to “real books”. I invariably have to leap in to defend reading in any and all its forms.
Now, I simply have to take them into the library and point to the signs on the doors….