Monday, 7 December 2009

Booky Television Anne Cassidy

Recent news that Amanda Ross is to launch a new Channel 4 book club fills me with sheer unadulterated pleasure. Is this because they are headlining with one of my titles? Sadly no. But because books on television give the act of ‘reading fiction’ a kind of mainstream appeal.

I read because I enjoy it. I think many more people would enjoy reading if they could find the right book. But for many people ‘reading fiction’ is linked in their minds to school, learning and essay questions like ‘Examine the themes of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird’. Books are for studying and book shops are places for the learned few.

Many people read and enjoy what they read; the much criticised celeb autobiographies or the much sneered at Dan Brown or the blood suckers of the Twilight worlds. I have no problem with these. I think you should find your own route to becoming a ‘reader’. I read Ian Fleming and Denis Wheatley, Harold Robbins and Jean Plaidy when I was a young adult. Eventually I looked for other things.

For many people television is a huge part of their lives. I am one of those people. I was brought up in the TV boom of the 1950s and television is in my blood. For a lot of people seeing books talked about on television (on the sadly missed Richard and Judy book club) will be the first time they have ever watched people enthusing about the content of a book without having to write about it or be tested on it. It will also be the first time they have listened to people talking about books which are outside their comfort zone. Complex and literary; genre and unique. Celebrities they admire will sit on a sofa and show interest and enthusiasm for things they would never have considered reading. And you know what? They might be filled with enough confidence to give it a go themselves.

Would I like a celeb to sit on a sofa and talk about one of my books, THE DEAD HOUSE? Or LOOKING FOR JJ? Maybe Martine McCutcheon? Someone from Hollyoaks? Alan Titchmarsh? A weather girl (or boy)? Yes I would. Because then people on their sofas might be emboldened to think that they could enjoy this book. They might begin to see that book shops and the world of books are not just about reading to learn.

They are also about learning to enjoy reading.


Linda Strachan said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Anne. If your only experience of books and reading is from school it can wonderful but it can also be dreadful. I still cannot bear The Wind in the Willows because we had a teacher who took it apart for what seemed like months (possibly only a week or so!) and made it so boring that even my own kids laugh at my groans when anyone mentions it. Luckily I was already a fairly enthusiastic reader and she didn't manage to put me off books for life.

I remember one writer telling me she hated it when a teacher decided to 'do' one of her books in class because of the way they pick it to pieces rather than let the children enjoy the book and form their own reactions to it. She had heard about one teacher who had been commenting on her book in class saying 'this is what the writer meant by this particular passage (or theme)' and it was complete rubbish!

barb said...

It was my experience of reading at school that initially put me off books. I can remember sitting in a class of 40+,sharing a copy of 'The Little Grey Men' by BB. It was a complete trial; the teacher read out loud from her copy of the book and we struggled to trace her words, with our fingers, on the page. This isn't what reading is about.I hadn't a clue what the story was about; my imagination was stifled.
Luckily my next teacher really sold the idea that books can open up a whole new 'untapped world'. She inspired me to join the local library. I haven't been without a book since and my eyesight seems to have suffered. I used to finish Enid Blyton books under the blankets, by torchlight.

adele said...

I am a huge telly addict as well and I agree that any route to getting people to read...and read whatever suits them without any just dandy and I would be thrilled skinny if anyone chose one of my books. BUT I would just like to say that my teachers and the books I read at school were an enormous part of what made me a reader and I'd like to think that you CAN study literature and learn something. It would be nice to know that children are still reading whole books and not just extracts from things considered 'too difficult' for them. There are some things that are much more approachable when taught properly.

Nick Green said...

There was a Richard & Judy children's books special a couple of years ago, featuring Philip Pullman, Jaqueline Wilson and Anthony Horowitz. I thought it was great - with one howling exception! When it came to 'showcasing' the work of these three authors, they didn't have the authors read out a passage; instead they showed clips from the film/TV adaptations of their books.

Has a point ever been missed in such spectacular fashion?

Nishant said...

a whole new 'untapped world'. She inspired me to join the local library. I haven't been without a book since and my eyesight seems to have suffered. I used to finish Enid Blyton books under the blankets, by torchlight

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