Friday, July 27, 2012

Please, Keep Reading!

When I taught third grade, one of my goals every year was to get my kids to read more. To this end, I scheduled 20 minutes every day for the class to read. I had a classroom library where kids could find a good book to read. As homework, I also required that they read for one hour over the week-end. The parents loved this. Some of the kids loved this.

Some kids did not love this. They weren't big readers, so sitting for 20 whole minutes with nothing to do but read was torture. They'd squirm. They'd fidget. There was sighing. There was eye rolling. I told them they had to find something to read, something they'd enjoy reading. They could get a book from the classroom library, they could read a comic book or a magazine. But they had to be reading for those 20 minutes.

I had the philosophy that getting kids to read anything, even if it wouldn't be my first choice of reading material for them, was a good thing. They could get into the practice of reading and later we could work on the quality of their reading material.

As the year progressed, even these reluctant readers would settle in and read. They even started liking it.

When Harry Potter came out, even though I was no longer teaching, I was thrilled. This series got kids reading, and reading a lot. Talking about the books and the characters. But mostly it got kids wanting to read more. Rowling did an excellent job in creating a magical world, and kids devoured it.

And then there was Twilight. Yes, people (often young girls) were reading, and reading and rereading these books, so I should have been happy, right? Kids were reading.

But Bella is such a poor protagonist. She broods. She pines. She puts her life on hold to wait for Edward. "I love him. I know he's dangerous and loving him could hurt me, but I love him." bleah.

And now there is the 50 Shades of Grey craze. People are reading. Lots of people are reading.

People come into the bookstore for the first time ever (they tell us this) looking for this book. People for whom this will be the first book they've purchased (they tell us this too) and the only book they purchase - unless, of course, they buy the rest of the series.

Is this a good thing?

Here again, people are reading. So many people are reading this series. This poorly written, unhealthy portrayal of women and relationships is taking the country by storm. (see this article for a great explanation of why I do not like this series:

What bothers me is that so many of the people reading 50 Shades of Grey are not readers. And they are adults. This is their only idea of a literary romance. This is their idea of a good book.

My previous philosophy would hope that people might get started reading, even if they are reading books I think are rather less than good quality.

I really hope that people reading 50 Shades of Grey keep reading. I sincerely hope that this series is not their only vision of a literary relationship.

I hope that they get other ideas of what a relationship is. How about David Levithan's LOVER'S DICTIONARY? Or John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS? Or THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger? Or WUTHERING HEIGHTS? Or LOVE STORY by Erich Segal? Or STARDUST by Neil Gaiman? Or even, though his books are pretty sweet for me, Nicholas Sparks?

What other literary romances do you hope that people read?

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  1. Excellent. And ditto. I was shocked by how very poor the writing was in 50 Shades. Proof that our continuing argument is on target: There are levels of literacy, and very few in the US achieve the highest. The mainstream publishing industry is much tho blame, publishing vast quantities of poorly written books with poorly conceived concepts.

  2. Debra,
    Thanks for commenting, and I agree. It seems to me that if people read well written books, they will ENJOY them! And you're right, people need to support well written books so the publishing industry will produce more of them.