This blog post first appeared in Katherine Vick's website and is used with permission.
I firmly believe there is a book out there for everyone.
The problem is finding it.
I have to be honest and say I find it really hard to understand why it is some people don’t like to read. But I’m also well aware that’s because I was brought up in a home full of books by a family of heavy readers and therefore to me, that was just normal. Books were a part of life. Everyone in my immediate circle always had at least one book on the go, be it fact or fiction, and my home was awash with crammed bookshelves. Reading was for fun.
But I know that many others aren’t so lucky. That, to many, reading was nothing but a chore associated with school or something that through no fault of their own, they found difficult and frustrating. When reading is an activity only done in association with something dull or even despised, it becomes a symbol of unhappiness and displeasure, with no association with enjoyment whatsoever. I’m aware in this time of lockdown learning, many children learning from home find reading to be boring. And when it is nothing but hard work and frustration, it becomes even worse.
Speaking as a holder of a Masters Degree in Literary Studies and Creative Writing, I would struggle to come up with very many books I have read for school or university work that I’ve actually enjoyed reading. Indeed, a number I have actively despised and would have considered setting on fire once the relevant module was done if only such a thing was not anathema to me. School reading isn’t there to be enjoyed; it’s there to get one through the curriculum, and that’s the problem.
Take Shakespeare for example. While teaching Shakespeare in school is very right and worthy, it’s also, much as I hate to say it, too early for most people. Children and teenagers rarely appreciate the complexity of the ideas and language when Shakespeare is taught in schools – mostly they struggle to see past the strange, difficult language and weird events and only like the blood and guts. I openly admit as a school child, I wasn’t especially enamoured of Shakespeare – it was only returning to his work as an adult, I found I could understand and appreciate it for what it was. But many never do return. They remember the childhood difficulties and don’t look back.
And that makes me sad. Because for many of these people, this youthful prejudice is something that they will carry through to adult life. They won’t come to see reading as something that can bring light and pleasure and satisfaction but discard it from their lives. They do not love to read because they haven’t read the right books for the right reasons.
And that brings me back to there being a book for everyone. Out there, I really feel every person can find something to read that will bring them pleasure. There are so many different kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction, pure prose or illustration, on every subject going and every walk of life. I’d even like to hope my humble offering, the first of which came out a year ago today [April 1, 2020], might bring pleasure to some people. ;) And not just books, why not comics or fan fiction online? With so much scope in the literary universe, how can any human being not find something to love?
And how to find that reading enjoyment? Well, one has to look. And that may mean stepping past an ingrained dislike or mere indifference to reading in order to do so. Many won’t want to and that is up to them. But for those who do search, I think they’ll find it worth the effort. I also think it’s so important to help children in particular to find something to read they want to read, not just for school, but for themselves, so they can learn early that reading doesn’t have to be a chore. Make reading fun for them. Then they’ll have that to take with them all of their lives. And their lives will be the richer for it.