I’ve just, courtesy of twitter, come across the latest words of wisdom from a politician on reading.
The headline is All children should read Harry Potter books by 11, says minister
The actual quote is
“By the end of primary school, all children should be able to read and enjoy books like Harry Potter. But too many children can’t enjoy these brilliant books because they haven’t learnt to read properly.”
Now, the real ire here ought to be directed at the headline writer who mangled the quote, but I’ll save a bit for the politician too.
Let’s have a quick think about the Harry Potter books. They start as Harry reaches his 11th birthday. They go on for 7 years. In the course of those years there are deaths, kisses and iirc at least one birth. The themes, unsurprisingly, are increasingly adult as the books go on, and the last one is really quite dark. Much loved characters perish unpleasantly left, right and centre (it’s my suspicion that JKRowling was trying to kill off enough ppl that no one would want her to go back and write more).
Why on earth should we expect children of 11 to be able to or want to read those? I’d prefer, tbh, that my 11 year old *hadn’t* read all of that. That she didn’t want to know all of the possibilities of life by that age. As it is, she’s not utterly convinced by the kissing
I’ve said in person, and possibly before on here, that I don’t consider Harry Potter great literature. It’s a bunch of ripping yarns, fair enough, but as it gets to the end of the saga it could really have benefited from a much sterner editor. But by then who had the courage to tell JK anything? And yes, I’ve read them all nevertheless – scurrying to read the final couple ahead of Big to be sure of what she was about to encounter.
I read a lot of children and young adult fiction. I intend to blog more about it too – I’m going to be starting a new feature here on this blog called Our Year in Books – where I’ll share what we’ve all got on our reading piles week by week, and review some of it, mainly those that Smallest and I read. I’m hoping the children will also review on their blogs and if they do I’ll cross link. I like YA fiction, and there are some fantastic authors about. Why on earth do politicians not do their own homework and figure that out – why is it always the usual suspects that get trotted out?
And did they ever think that that could be part of the problem? That a few books get overhyped and if you don’t like the sound of those, then reading is shut off to you? Can you imagine being a child who just isn’t that interested in fantasy? That Harry Potter and his ilk bore you silly, but it’s what everyone talks about, so you think that’s pretty much all there is on offer.
I’ve no problem at all with children being encouraged to read. Nor with politicians wanting to increase literacy rates. But children being fed a diet of Harry Potter and Michael Morpurgo (who is fabulous, but also, depressing!) is not the way to do it. Variety is the spice of life, and also of reading.