When it comes to books, and particularly popular books, we all have a wide range of opinions on whether we like them or not. I was wondering if this also related to quotes about books and reading.
Let me start at the beginning. Yesterday I was flicking through my Facebook timeline, and I came across a Goodreads post promoting a quote from popular crime author James Patterson:
There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.
When I first saw this quote, I thought nothing of it but the more I began to think about it, the more it annoyed me.
As an advocate of child literacy, it is more than likely that I am just over-analysing what James Patterson is saying, but to me it comes across in such an assuming manner that it doesn’t take into consideration children’s true feelings about why they either like or dislike reading.
It’s an automatic assumption that every child will like it because others do and that they’re able to read exactly the same.
There are many reasons why we may hate something, and often they are based on valid, personal experiences. It has nothing to do with the thing in general but our reactions to it.
When I was thinking about this yesterday, I was thinking about my sister’s views on books and reading and she used to take a real dislike to reading for pleasure. She’d glance at the books on my shelves, see me engrossed in a book, and interrupt me to say that reading is boring. I used to shrug it off, knowing that we are both capable of choosing what pastimes we like and don’t like and because we were complete opposites. However, now understanding my sister more, reading wasn’t boring for the sake of being boring, it was because reading was seen as a chore and too much like school work. For my sister reading meant constantly having to use concentration she didn’t have, writing down words that she didn’t understand, and not being able to see the words form images and come to life in her imagination.
It was not automatically visual and therefore inaccessible to her specific needs. Being profoundly Deaf and a user of BSL, she is a very visual person. Her communication is visual, and when it comes to fiction she prefers to absorb it through film and tv where she can see the story being played out. Nonetheless, she’s more open to books now as she understands the improvement it will make to her comprehension of written English.
More importantly, what has changed and made her more accepting of reading is that it has become more accessible to her. With the growth in middle-grade, mixed YA, and particularly graphic novels, there are a variety of books she can choose from and enjoy. Yes you can connect this back to originally “reading the wrong books” but if suitable books were not there to begin with, how can anyone say that? It’s not that the books were ‘wrong’ it’s that there were no accessible books back in the mid-90s. Okay, I can remember us having a vhs of a Kipper the dog book that had BSL interpretation, and a couple of other books with the pictures of signs underneath the words, but they were limited. Get past the age of 6 and those books disappeared. Whether that’s the same nowadays, I’m not too sure but in the end, that’s what it comes down to.
It is all about accessibility and what different children and people get out of reading.
From the way I look at it, the quote is blatantly narrow-minded. It doesn’t take into consideration the reasons behind liking and disliking a pastime and lifestyle choice like reading. It’s also high and mighty, and when high-profile authors say something like this they’re believing that they will change the world for the better. Some do, and they bring minority representation to centre stage (Whitney Gardner with You’re Welcome Universe etc), but others forget that their audiences are not filled to the brim with people who are exactly the same.
And with that, I’m going to end my little rant and discussion there.
Although I will suggest that even though I don’t agree with what James Patterson is saying, I’m not opposed to reading anything he has written.
Am I just overthinking it?
What are your views?
Have you come across any quotes about books and reading that you disagree with?
Thanks for reading and have a good day!