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Thursday, 13 October 2011

We're Too Old For This

Heard snippets on the radio the other day (was driving so didn't catch all the details) about a 'report' published by someone who had noticed how many commuters on the train were reading children's books and 'wondered why?'.
Of course they couldn't just accept it, other individuals reading choices, has to be some rational explanation and of course it soon came. Wait for it; 'people are so stressed by the working environment and the daily commute and the pressures of modern life that reading children's books is a way of escaping from this'.
Ah right I see. It couldn't have been that adults actually enjoy reading children's books just for the pleasure of it then.
So what about the mass who read romantic or violent crime fiction? That's not 'escaping' then, that's ok, no questions need asking or surveys doing or explanations given. It's just when adults choose to read children's books it promotes comment, questioning and criticism because, and lets be honest here, this is what it really is, a judgement being passed under the guise of a survey. The real statement being made here is that children's books are only for children and adults should only read adult books.
We need to 'grow up'.
This book snobbery has always angered me, ever since I watched Linda Smith on Room 101 wanting to 'put in the bin' adults who read Harry Potter. And by way of explanation she went on to say that it was ok for adults to read Harry Potter to their children but to want to read it themselves that's what annoyed her (It's always Harry Potter isn't it, not Wind In The Willows or The Hobbit. I smell a whiff of plain old jealousy at others success here). So not adults who read violent crime or horror, a lot of which is directed at women and children, I thought she could at least have played the feminist card, but no, just adults who chose to read childrens books, this seems to annoy more than anything else.
Going online to try and find (and failing) information on this report I came across numerous feeds and discussions on this very subject, all from the same starting point, all from, I assume, adults so grown up and intellectual and far too clever to lower themselves to read a children's book.
And all responded to in much the same way as this: 'Can I get away with reading children's books seriously? I don't care; I read them because I want to, and those who want to look down their snooty noses at me are poor sad people who are missing a lot of pleasure.'
I've never heard it said 'Why do adults choose to write childrens books, they must be hanging on to their childhoods, unable to function in a grown up world' etc. It seems it's just adults who choose to read them.
I can fully understand if, for example, you went to see your GP and he had started wearing round glasses and had a lightening scar tattooed on his forehead, and after the examination he said 'I know a spell that will cure this' or 'I need a second opinion I am just going to give Dumbledore a quick ring', then Huston, as they say, we have a problem. This person needs to broaden their reading a bit, for sure.
In my humble opinion a good story is a good story whoever it is aimed at (why should children get all the fun?) and if you want to read it then read it. Why limit yourself. And if your own life is so dull and your imagination so lacking that all you can do is criticise and judge others for what they read (for goodness sake aren't there better things to do) maybe you need to read a bit more widely yourself. These are people who even when they were children themselves they were so busy wanting to be grown up they never allowed themselves to read children's books, never played out in the street or messed about in the school playground and now secretly wished they had.
Try Ursula le Guins Earthsea trilogy, Cornelia Funkes Inkheart trilogy, Philip Pullmans His Dark Materials trilogy, Tolkeins Hobbit, the Roald Dahl books, the Montmorency books by Eleanor Updale, the hilarious Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison, all excellent books in their own right, forget the target audience.
And dare I say it, yes I wholeheartedly do, the Harry Potter books. Or Treasure island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Are these only for children?
And I challenge you to read the truly excellent Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo and not be moved.
Instead of it being a point of criticism or ridicule it could just mean that you are a healthy grown up with a good imagination, able to choose your own reading matter.
And, just a suggestion here, to those people who have all this time and money and energy to research these 'reports', might I suggest a few hours of voluntary work instead, doing something really worthwhile?


  1. I read Tintin ! wonder what that says about me lol

  2. It says you like Tintin. There is a Tintin film coming out soon, I will watch it..

  3. Hurrah! Give this man a late night radio show in the vein of Midnight Caller but without the crime. Give him a beautiful and mysterious assistant. Let him read to us.

    I'm reading Philip Reeve's Larklight books which are spiffing. His Mortal Engines books are among my favourite books ever and Hans Andersen's stories are blowing my mind. Actually blowing my mind, wide effing open. And please read Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman's books The Runaway Dinner, Previously and The Pencil. Such astonishing books.