Saturday, January 19, 2008

Reading: A pill for intellectual development?

An article in the by Michael Morpurgo today about instilling the love of reading in children is followed by the Telegraph's guide to the 100 books that every child should read (per three age groups).

Mr. Morpurgo says that Britain (though it sounds pretty widespread to me) is in a muddle about literacy. Treating the ability to read as a tool for success rather than focussing on the appreciation of storytelling and the story have created the commodification of reading. He partly blames education:

Ironically, it may be responsible both for the great blossoming of our literature, and at the same time for leaving so many with the impression that literature is not for them, but the preserve of a certain educated elite. As a consequence, much of our society has become separated from its own stories.

When I reflect on my early reading experiences, those that come immediately to mind involve teachers/librarians/authors reading to the class. I guess that I already had a love of story.

At any rate, there are some surprising choices for the Top 100s (because I haven't seen them very often on other lists of the sort) and I'm glad that I have copies of many of the titles. I've not read all of what I own.

There's a story by Jacqueline Wilson -- one of my favourites -- that I haven't read and now intend to do so: The Story of Tracy Beaker.

Some of my childhood favourites, read over and over again, made the lists: Pippi Longstocking, Winnie The Pooh, Tom's Midnight Garden, The Outsiders.

Books I've avoided appear: Watership Down. (I've avoided it because I've heard that it's powerful emotionally and it has taken me years to grow comfortable with The Velveteen Rabbit. I don't want to go through that again.) Charlotte's Web. As a child, the story saddened me.

Book(s) I didn't like appeared, as well: The Story of Babar. Anything Babar, really, I just don't like.

Some books that I've even recently considered reading: I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith and Coraline by Neil Gaiman (both started years back but remain unfinished).

Some books that I'd like to buy made the lists: The Worst Witch Collection, by Jill Murphy.

A longer version of the article in the Royal Society of Literature Review:

Here are the lists:

Note to self: Er, stop avoiding the books that require intense, emotional engagement. This is a comfort-zone alert!


  1. Anonymous4:56 PM

    I have just been reading your blog. You might be interested in a new site where you can create personalised reading books for your child using your own digital photos.

  2. billy5:07 PM

    man am a book fiend. Just settled in brooklyn. got my library card right away. now busting my eyeballs :)

  3. That's great. I love the library, too. What's the library like in your neighbourhood?

  4. Watership Down was very enjoyable. I like books that involve the reader, otherwise why read it?

    BTW I tried the link for the list and it kept saying "page not found".

  5. Suzanne5:16 PM

    Hi, Cube

    I was just speaking -- with an instructor of the course I'm taking -- about writing and giving as honestly as possible.

    I see your point -- I just have to gear myself up for the emotional, whether in books or in movies.

    I found, among others, Camilla Gibb's Sweetness In The Belly incredibly demanding emotionally and enjoyed every minute of it.