Kids Know Best

When it comes to reading, kids are way ahead of adults in telling a good book from a bad one. Yes or no?

SF Signal posts some extracts from a recent Stephen King article defending the latest H.Potter from her critics. My favourite quote is:

…reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire, right now it’s probably healthier than the adult version, which has to cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious “literary novels” each year. While the bigheads have been predicting (and bemoaning) the post-literate society, the kids have been supplementing their Potter with [insert long list of good kids books]…

This is certainly my experience of encouraging reading with young people. They already read…loads. Perhaps not the sporty kids, but then as good as reading is it isn’t the right thing to force on everyone. The sporty kids should read a bit, but then the bookish kids should do a bit of sport. But kids who do read, REALLY read. I hold up Rowling’s, Pullman’s and Wilson’s bank account statements as evidence. What adults are really bemoaning isn’t the state of kids reading, its the state of their own reading.

I would guess at there being way more the 400 boring literary novels each year. And boring is the word. Masterpieces of intellectual endeavour they maybe, but a thrill / laugh a minute they aren’t. In a sane world I would defend the literary novel to the death, were it kept in its rightful place as a minority interest. But like some uncontrolable weed the literary novel has grown to dominate the public understanging of what a grown-up novel should be. It’s as though the cinema only showed Bergman, Goddard and Lynch clones. While the critics would be overjoyed, the audience would soon go elsewhere. And thats exactly what has happened with books. Its hardly surprising that peole are less than enthusiatic about reading when they are faced with a slew  of specialised literary fiction and made to feel more than a little freakish if they happen to wander off into the romance, crime or science fiction section where they might actualy find something they want to read. Or the kids section, which is where lots of the best books are, which is why they get remarketed in adult covers and critics spend pages explaining their deeper adult meaning just so they can enjoy a good story without losing their intellectual cachet.

What we need is the equivalent of literary weed killer. Any idea what that might be?

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Director of creative writing at UoL, published with OUP and Cambridge. Currently travelling the world and writing a book.

2 thoughts on “Kids Know Best

  1. For Heaven’s sake, why don’t you just come out of the closet and admit you’re a Potter fan? I know it, Lydia knows it, and the sooner you let it out it the sooner you can start on the path to recovery from your present state of despair and denial.

    Before you say, “I am not in denial”, ask yourself this: is it really coincidental that your progress on your own writing has been so abysmal recently? No wonder you’re blocked. If I were Lydia I’d give you a good slap.



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