Wednesday, 12 May 2010

For the love of literature

Today in the post I got a copy of Pipers at the Gates of Dawn by Jonathan Cott. It's a collection of essays on children's literature writers. I took several CL classes at uni, and almost decided to do my MA on it. However, I've opted for a different course. I still love children's books. I don't care that at 23 I'm supposedly too old for the books I adored growing up. I don't think you're ever too old to love the writing. I defy anyone to look at their bookshelves, or even just remember their favourite books, and not find some written for children in there somewhere.
The Guardian printed a list of great children's books today, edited by the rather brilliant Lucy Mangan, who always makes me laugh. However, in about 5 minutes I came up with a list of books I think they should have included but didn't. These included Peter Pan- J.M Barrie, Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass- Lewis Carroll, The Graveyard Book- Neil Gaiman, Nation- Terry Pratchett, Carrie's War- Nina Bawden, The Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Grahame, Black Beauty- Anna Sewell and several more. I also think a good dose of fairytales, folklore and mythology work brilliantly with a child's growing imagination.
The paper was inspired to start their list because a huge number of children are starting school without ever having been read to at home. This breaks my heart.
I was a weird child, I preferred my printed friends to the other children at school. I didn't fit in, I didn't watch much TV, I didn't listen to pop music. I just liked to read. Or rather, I loved to read. I'd be a different person if I didn't read the way I do. I wouldn't want to be a writer, to pass on the stories that took root when I was younger. I wouldn't recommend books to people, desperate to share my latest literary love affair.
I'm a passionate advocate for reading, for its joys, pleasures and moments of sheer bliss. Sometimes books are sad, heartbreakingly so, or funny, or scary, to the point where you can't sleep. But that's the magic of them.
I read obsessively, wherever I am, chances are there's a book in my bag if not in my hand. If I don't read, I don't feel right. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to encourage people to read. I tell them about all the fun that can be had, all the joy. So please, read. Encourage others to read. If you're in a position to help those who struggle, help them. Everyone should have a favourite book (or 10!) and be able to say they love a writer, or a story. There's worlds to be discovered, worlds upon worlds.

Cross-posted at A Book A Day Bookworm


  1. I agree! Children who don't read miss out on such an incredible world. One where you can go anywhere you wish with just a thought and where your imagination knows no limits.

    p.s. Reading about you as a child made me smile. Sounded like you were describing me! I was a weird little munchkin too. And I would have felt so much more alone if I didn't have my books to keep me company!

  2. That sums up how I feel much more succinctly. Those wonderful places I knew and loved as a child are open to anyone.

    It's nice to know I wasn't the only one adrift with only my books for company as a kid :)


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