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Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

A really fine article, and refreshing to read about the concepts of open-mindedness and trust in youth. It does raise the question of whether it’s possible for young people to be as free to absorb culture (in all its forms) away from the kind of didacticism that bespoils much of the literary output of this era, a seemingly different world to the pre-internet age.

The author seems to think it might be possible, and i’d like to hear more about that; but it’s also about parenting too. The very idea of ‘banning’ one’s children from reading something just seems so counter-productive, as the author herself suggests when expressing jealousy that one of her friends had that happen, thus creating the opportunity to be furtive. It happened to me (in the 1960s) when my father made me return a book about dinosaurs to the library. Of course, i read it even more avidly. Just what was he afraid might happen? Well… it did anyway!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

A really fine article, and refreshing to read about the concepts of open-mindedness and trust in youth. It does raise the question of whether it’s possible for young people to be as free to absorb culture (in all its forms) away from the kind of didacticism that bespoils much of the literary output of this era, a seemingly different world to the pre-internet age.

The author seems to think it might be possible, and i’d like to hear more about that; but it’s also about parenting too. The very idea of ‘banning’ one’s children from reading something just seems so counter-productive, as the author herself suggests when expressing jealousy that one of her friends had that happen, thus creating the opportunity to be furtive. It happened to me (in the 1960s) when my father made me return a book about dinosaurs to the library. Of course, i read it even more avidly. Just what was he afraid might happen? Well… it did anyway!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
10 months ago

Hear hear. And not just “let”, but “encourage”.
With the caveat that no encouragement should be obvious, or it will be ignored by any normal teen, obviously.
I grew up in a household without TV and with cupboards, spare rooms and attic stuffed full of adult books.
My late Mum threw out our TV when I was aged 5, as she considered that there would be too much sex on it. Oh the disappointment when we got a TV again, c 10 years later, lol.
However, oddly, that prudence found no echo in relation to books. From P7 onwards, she’d happily buy me graphic adult thrillers, full of sex and violence, without a second glance / thought.  In the ‘70s, even your corner shop would have a small carousel of reasonable best-sellers on the check-out counter.  
Whatever the reason for the laissez-faire attitude re the printed word, I loved it. 
I read away, nobody ever checked anything.
That was the appeal of it. Reading never felt like work. It was a thrill and a pleasure. Central to that was the sense that I was learning about adult behaviours and complexities in advance.
Nowadays though as schools struggle to get kids to read anything at all (such is the dominance of screen games and social media), many primary schools have competitive reading, wherein kids are lauded / obtain gongs for reading so many books / so many million words etc.
This is very well-intentioned, but it is also counterproductive for two reasons:
It reinforces the idea that you need to be rewarded for reading. But for my generation, reading was its own reward. To maximise the amount of books read, kids read within age-appropriate tramlines, as such books are easier to read. But the best reading is the one that requires you to dip into the dictionary on occasion, and which introduces you to stuff you do not yet understand.

Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

…Which is where Kindle and other e-readers add so much to the readinig experience: the ability to highlight a word or name and be taken straight to a dictionary or Wikipedia entry is deeply impressive. And it also, in many cases, highlights just how much the author really knows about his/her topic.

Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

…Which is where Kindle and other e-readers add so much to the readinig experience: the ability to highlight a word or name and be taken straight to a dictionary or Wikipedia entry is deeply impressive. And it also, in many cases, highlights just how much the author really knows about his/her topic.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
10 months ago

Hear hear. And not just “let”, but “encourage”.
With the caveat that no encouragement should be obvious, or it will be ignored by any normal teen, obviously.
I grew up in a household without TV and with cupboards, spare rooms and attic stuffed full of adult books.
My late Mum threw out our TV when I was aged 5, as she considered that there would be too much sex on it. Oh the disappointment when we got a TV again, c 10 years later, lol.
However, oddly, that prudence found no echo in relation to books. From P7 onwards, she’d happily buy me graphic adult thrillers, full of sex and violence, without a second glance / thought.  In the ‘70s, even your corner shop would have a small carousel of reasonable best-sellers on the check-out counter.  
Whatever the reason for the laissez-faire attitude re the printed word, I loved it. 
I read away, nobody ever checked anything.
That was the appeal of it. Reading never felt like work. It was a thrill and a pleasure. Central to that was the sense that I was learning about adult behaviours and complexities in advance.
Nowadays though as schools struggle to get kids to read anything at all (such is the dominance of screen games and social media), many primary schools have competitive reading, wherein kids are lauded / obtain gongs for reading so many books / so many million words etc.
This is very well-intentioned, but it is also counterproductive for two reasons:
It reinforces the idea that you need to be rewarded for reading. But for my generation, reading was its own reward. To maximise the amount of books read, kids read within age-appropriate tramlines, as such books are easier to read. But the best reading is the one that requires you to dip into the dictionary on occasion, and which introduces you to stuff you do not yet understand.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago

Great piece, but it did lead me to ask a few questions.

Are there now more books which deliberately set out to “brainwash” rather than simply open young minds? I’m thinking of the various lists of woke books for kids,

While in the past we either read such material behind our parents backs, or such reading was tolerated, are we now in a situation where parents (and teachers) are deliberately feeding their children such material in order to direct their thinking down a route they favour?

In the past we might have been exposed to, or exposed ourselves to, material which was outside that we met in school or at home. In other words this was a counter current, or a peep beyond the official confines. We got a view beyond the norms we were used to. It questioned the status quo. Is that still the case, or are children now being deliberately directed this way by adult actors? In some cases, are parents, teachers, media and publishers in a sense colluding in doing this?

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago

Great piece, but it did lead me to ask a few questions.

Are there now more books which deliberately set out to “brainwash” rather than simply open young minds? I’m thinking of the various lists of woke books for kids,

While in the past we either read such material behind our parents backs, or such reading was tolerated, are we now in a situation where parents (and teachers) are deliberately feeding their children such material in order to direct their thinking down a route they favour?

In the past we might have been exposed to, or exposed ourselves to, material which was outside that we met in school or at home. In other words this was a counter current, or a peep beyond the official confines. We got a view beyond the norms we were used to. It questioned the status quo. Is that still the case, or are children now being deliberately directed this way by adult actors? In some cases, are parents, teachers, media and publishers in a sense colluding in doing this?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago

I got given a kinky Mishima book called ‘Forbidden Colours’ at age of 12.

Thank God for dodgy uncles.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Just as well it wasn’t “the sailor who fell from grace with the sea”.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Just as well it wasn’t “the sailor who fell from grace with the sea”.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 months ago

I got given a kinky Mishima book called ‘Forbidden Colours’ at age of 12.

Thank God for dodgy uncles.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
10 months ago

“Surely, in this age of TikTok and unfettered internet access, there’s much to appreciate about first encountering adult material in the form of words, rather than video clips.”
Surely, in this age, it’s just a hypothetical. Does it still happen?

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
10 months ago

“Surely, in this age of TikTok and unfettered internet access, there’s much to appreciate about first encountering adult material in the form of words, rather than video clips.”
Surely, in this age, it’s just a hypothetical. Does it still happen?

Marissa M
Marissa M
10 months ago

My father was influential with my reading material. He never restricted it, but there would be a mild sniff of amusement if I read current teen lit. As a result, I read all of Dickens, Fitzgerald and Trollope before I entered high school.
Now I let my kids read whatever and often, on vacation, tell them there is no wi-fi available. Now that they are savvier I tell them that they will have to pay to use it. At 20 my son is a reluctant reader, but while we were in Italy he devoured a non-fiction book on a guy who biked the length of the Americas. And my youngest daughter reads the light romances that are out these days.
Reading is reading.

Last edited 10 months ago by Marissa M
Ali Maegraith
Ali Maegraith
10 months ago

Great article! I picked up the ‚clan of the cave bear‘ as a 13 year old and went on to read the whole series. I totally couldn’t believe that my mother didn’t bat an eyelid. I suppose she was relieved that she wouldn’t have to give me ‚the talk‘. Come to think of it I’m extremely grateful she didn‘t either!