The books I had to read at school, as part of my English language studies, really left me cold. Had I been a different child, this might have turned me off reading books for ever. The books and short stories on the
curriculum at that time were acknowledged and acclaimed. They included works by William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alan Sillitoe and George Orwell. They
represented an eclectic mix of times, styles and themes – yet each one bored me senseless. And herein lies the problem with encouraging reading at school – people have very different literary tastes and you can do more harm than good in forcing children to read books they have not chosen for themselves.
My love of reading came from my parents. They read to me – my mother when I was very young and my father every night before I went to sleep. From the books of Enid Blyton, progressing through ‘Treasure Island’ to ‘Three Men in a boat’ and eventually to Zane Grey’s ‘The Thundering Herd’, I was introduced to a wide range of fascinating stories that sparked my desire to read. As I grew older the trailers for the films that I was not old enough to go and see in the cinema, played their part in inspiring contemporary book choices. And later still pure curiosity in what made a book a classic led me to broaden my literary experience.
I would love to see more young people with a book in their hands, replacing the obligatory cell phone, iPod or portable games console. I would love to see as reality, Education Secretary Michael Gove’s utopian vision of children reading fifty books a year. Schools, however, will probably never be able to give children more than the tools with which to
enjoy reading a good book. The motivation to pick up and read a good book from cover to cover will come from elsewhere – maybe parents, maybe J. K. Rowling, maybe the British Board of Film Classification but probably not from the curricular of our schools.