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Reading of classic literature in serious decline in Uk schools

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Sun April 3rd, 2011, 1:01 pm

My school would probably have fainted if they'd had the Dark Materials on the curriculum in my day; I'd love to know if they study it now. They also hated Enid Blyton, which many schools still do today, but she got many children reading - and that is one of the problems: most kids don't want to read something a) they're forced to read and b) they might not understand. A work colleague once pointed out that it would be difficult to expect many 14/15 year olds to "get" Wuthering Heights or whatever, and it's true. They simply don't have the emotional experience (although WH's melodrama might strike a chord with some!) to appreciate the classics.
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon

SGM
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Post by SGM » Sun April 3rd, 2011, 1:40 pm

I believe that Dark Materials is read in some schools because I have come across advice to teachers not to impose their interpretation on children. But I can't say how widespread that is or if it is officially on the curriculum. I know that the Wizard of Earthsea was dealt with in one of the schools I did my teaching practice at but that was years before the curriculum was devised by the government. I wasn't teaching English so my knowledge of what went on in English classes from a teaching point of view is a bit sketchy.

We didn't actually read Enid Blyton in school but it was accepted that if you started reading with her, you would move on to better material and in my case that was true.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

BrianPK
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Post by BrianPK » Sun April 3rd, 2011, 3:16 pm

[quote=""Madeleine""] They also hated Enid Blyton, which many schools still do today, but she got many children reading - and that is one of the problems: most kids don't want to read something a) they're forced to read and b) they might not understand. A work colleague once pointed out that it would be difficult to expect many 14/15 year olds to "get" Wuthering Heights or whatever, and it's true. They simply don't have the emotional experience (although WH's melodrama might strike a chord with some!) to appreciate the classics.[/quote]
Well,in my opinion, discouraging children from reading Enid Blyton or J.K. Rowling (or any good quality modern children's author), was/is dangerous misguided elitism. I devoured the Famous Five and the Secret Seven books in my early teens and they were the first books to launch me into the actual joy of reading.I then started to try books like Coral Island,Treasure Island,Black Beauty,Children of the New Forest,Swiss Family Robinson etc,etc. When I reached 16/17 years I was reading the Brontes,Austen Thackeray etc. along with more modern authors and (as the hormones were well and truly coursing) was well able to appreciate if not fully understand the deep sense of emotion, disappointment,joy and regret contained in those wonderful stories.
One important point;the relative easy access I gained to an enjoyment of these stories was aided by reading abridged editions of childrens classics.In my time "Dean and son" classics were the most prominent childrens classics in the shops and so, very "boring" passages were omitted and the reading became much quicker with much faster story development and greater reader interest. I was about 17 when visiting the library,I(much to my amazement) discovered that the library version of Wuthering Heights seemed to contain far more pages than my Dean book and my Lorna Doone was positively anaemic compared to the library edition(I glanced through Wuthering Heights and my interest was immediately aroused when I read a passage describing Heathcliff opening Cathy's grave after so many years and embracing the corpse in the coffin. Well,naturally,(after being deprived of that splendid scene as a teenager :D )I just had to re-read the whole story again and enjoy it all the more;the same with the other more adult classics) but the point is that with the abridged classics the seed had been sown in a young mind and my enjoyment of reading and appreciating well written books both serious and light;both classics and modern had been established.
Last edited by BrianPK on Sun April 3rd, 2011, 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Madeleine
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Posts: 5713
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "Pine" by Francine Toon
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Sun April 3rd, 2011, 4:27 pm

I had the same experience with Lorna Doone - I bought a children's version in a discount bookshop, read it in about 2 days, then years later bought the "proper" version and couldn't believe the difference in size between the two - the children's version could have fitted into the adult one about 4 times! But I agree this is a good way to introduce younger people to the classics - I did find the first part of the adult LD a bit slow and boring until it really "got going", some of the writing I found a bit flowery, but once the story really took over that didn't matter.

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