Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Telling Kids What To Read

Do you know the excitement you feel in Year 7 when you start having English lessons in the school library? It’s something completely different and new and you think it’s going to be so fun! Except it’s not. You end up having to read what is, inevitably, a dreadful book in complete silence but you and your friends still find something hysterical to laugh at under your breath.

On one of these particular lessons, I went to pick up Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. A classic that I’d always been interested in. I sat down with it and was then approached by my teacher. He then talked very seriously to me about how it was “a very challenging text” and that I should maybe “consider something a bit easier.” I can’t remember his exact words but that was the basic gist: that I should I try something a catered a bit more to children. Something easier.


At this stage in my life, I hadn’t yet been introduced to the wonders of Jane Austen and hadn’t really read any classics. But this was a 12-year-old being told not to venture out and be more adventurous and challenged by her reading material. People bang on about how good certain classics are and we get taught about them in school, but then we’re told: “oh no, that’s too difficult to you.” I also don’t think that this particular teacher knew how much I love reading and how enthusiastic I am when it comes to trying out new books and I feel like telling children what they can or cannot read is really damaging and can stump a young person’s desire to read.


Five years on, I’ve still not read Great Expectations or any other work by Charles Dickens. It’s one book that’s very high up on my TBR list but it’s one of those books I just haven’t gotten round to reading yet. (You know those annoying ones that just sit there and then you always pick the newer book next to it?) I was reminded of it a lot last winter when I watched the BBC series Dickensian. I loved it so much and loved the characters so much, which kicked me up the bum a bit about how much I actually need to read more Dickens, as I know most of the stories but have never actually read the original texts. 

Did something similar happen to you? I’m going to get round to reading Great Expectations soon, it’s about time, I think.




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