Many parents in the English-speaking world lament how their kids don’t enjoy spending time with the written word. Our world’s entertainment is so visual that kids will plop down in front of the television to zone out, or plug in a video game to kill zombies, but to actually read? They’re just not into it.
As a result, many educators are bending over backward trying to get kids to put down the Xbox and pick up a book. Any book.
However, a principal in the UK has gone another direction. Rather than encouraging kids to read, he is trying to stop kids from reading books he deems as “bad.” No, these books aren’t being banned because of excess sex, adult themes, drug use, or many of the other angsty issues that seem to plague many young adult titles these days. He’s banned them because they’re not “good” books.
As such, he is trying to stop the 11-year-olds at his school from reading books like the Alex Rider spy series, the Artemis Fowl sci-fi novels and other fantastical titles like the Twilight series.
Halls, writing in the Sunday Times, said he is determined to steer his charges – whose parents pay around $19,000 a year infees – away from “literary fast food.”
He wrote: “I keep saying ‘good’ books. That’s because, unlike some, I do think there are bad ones. Or at least, books that are so simplistic, brutal or banal they are barely worth reading. I wouldn’t ban them, but I certainly wouldn’t bother recommending them.”
Halls has a list of 300 approved “classics” that are deemed acceptable for the kids to read.
The problem with Halls and many other educators who look down their noses at book series’ like Alex Rider and Artemis Fowl is that the supposed classics are about as entertaining as a visit to the proctologist.
I’m an avid reader myself, but it took discovering authors like Robert Heinlein as an adult to get me to bother reading for entertainment because of the steady diet of John Steinbeck I’d been forced to read in high school. Deemed “important” novels, titles like The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men sucked any joy I had for reading away, making it an academic chore one engaged in because they had to.
Halls may feel there are bad books, and few would dispute that. However, if you want children to become readers, you have to foster a love of reading first, then get them to read the classics. At least that way, if they don’t like the books, they won’t be afraid to try more classics later. There’s a reason I didn’t blink at my son wanting to read the Percy Jackson series. It was why he later decided to read Frankenstein on his own.
You’re never going to create a generation of readers if you try and make them read something they have no interest in. You’d have a better chance of launching a moon mission with a rubber band.