Go Forth and Read
Life's timeless pleasures
One of my greatest passions in life is reading. Reading for the sake of it, is one of life’s timeless pleasures. It is also an activity that cuts across generations. There is evidence, admittedly anecdotal, that, in the fast moving media-rich world we now live in, reading may be one of the casualties. A few days ago, a British politician, who happens to be the Secretary of State for Education, advocated renewed efforts to get children to read more in a bid to improve literacy. While I usually do not agree with him and his ilk in their general politics, I have to say I share this particular view. It just shows you can’t disagree on everything!
Fire the imagination
Books ought to have key life lessons, appeal to the sub-conscious and not scream out their message. They should address the mind’s eye and transport the reader. In a way, personally, I wouldn’t really care which books children read as long as they read books. The aim should be to avail to them the widest possible range. Some will fascinate them and others will not gain any traction. That’s normal. The aim should be to prod them to discover the life-long joy that comes from reading. As a child, you have wonderfully imaginative ideas and children’s books both fuel and feed on that.
Books are available and many places still have public libraries. Where this service is not available, the new media has brought many classics within easy and free reach. However, how many people know that many of the classics, including several mentioned in my list, are now available free online in ebook form? How many are aware of the Gutenberg project with thousands of downloadable free classic books readable on laptops, mobile phones and the myriad tablets currently on the market?
The secretary of state proposed that 11 year olds should ideally read one book a week. That is 50 books a year. I could happily name 50 favourite children’s books I enjoyed in my childhood. I will restrain myself and stick to 10.
· Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
· Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
· Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson: One of my all time favourites and its influence everywhere endures. If kids today refer to pirates seen in movies, cartoons or video games, how nice would it be for them to know the original influence of all that.
· Animal Farm by George Orwell: You did not need to know the politics and I had certainly never heard of the Bolsheviks or Karl Marx when I read this but how you got so totally engrossed in all the machinations and learnt about injustice in society.
· The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: How as a young boy I identified with these three young men. How when it came to the crunch, they lived by their motto "tous pour un, un pour tous" (all for one, one for all). How you warmed to the camaraderie and the sense of belonging.
· Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: the sheer force of Crusoe’s adventure kept you engrossed and you went back again and again to cheer him on as he battled seemingly impossible odds.
· The wind in the Willows: I did not grow up in England and this book allowed me to imagine this then mystical land as vividly described in the book. The seasons and above all, the four main (animal) characters and their inter-twining adventures with the moral sub-text. Magical stuff.
· King Solomon’s Mines by H Rider Haggard: A breathtaking adventure in deep unexplored Africa with Allan Quartermain and his native guide, the tall regal and incredibly brave Umbopa. How you cheered them on. You just couldn’t put it down.
· A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain: Probably the only non-fiction book I thoroughly enjoyed as a child and that seared itself in my memory.. The relentless humour is such that you can read it again and again.
· The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain: Yes, Mark Twain appears twice in my list of top ten childhood favourites. As a boy, just about to come of age, I identified a lot with Tom and that is despite the great geographical and cultural differences. It is mainly a boys’ story but I am sure girls did and still do enjoy it just as much.
Tell Us Yours
My children do read. I would hope that the habit has taken root. They have, on their own, found Harry Porter, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl and many others.
I invite fellow Hubbers to share with everybody the books they read as children, in that 8-13 year old age range and that had a lasting impression. You can give us one, two or ten titles; your call. If you are so inclined, tell us briefly why.
If you have children, what has been your experience regarding their reading? I do hope we can carry the torch for the joys of reading and make it realistic to have the Kindle as a favourite Birthday/Christmas present to the youngsters.