Thursday, 11 February 2010
How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books?
Since I've not done a post for several days (I'm really sorry about that I've got a lot of work from uni to do) I'll do this week's BTT.
Although obviously I am not old enough to have non-reading offspring to worry about I have had to deal with my mostly non-reader sister. Until very recently we were completely opposite in that she preferred to watch TV and Dvds all the time and had to be forced to read anything that was larger than a magazine whereas I hardly watch TV anymore (although I do love watching films) and I have to be threatened to get me away from my books- the threats usually imply that some form of harm will befall my precious books should I not comply. Our parents have long accepted the fact that I was the bookworm and my sister the TV addict and didn't force her to read if she didn't want to.
However in the last year a strange and miraculous change was wrought upon my sister thanks to me and although I'm not all too happy to admit it- Twilight. Yes that's right those beslubbering books which have been hyped up beyond all reason and which have ensnared the minds of an enormous portion of the female population, old and young, were the catalyst which got my sister reading. When I first read the Twilight books back around the time just when Breaking Dawn came out I'll readily confess that I was addicted. I raced through all four books and went back and re-read them several times for good measure. I even gave the first book as a christmas present to three of my best friends with the very stern order to "read it or else!" I even joined The Twilight Lexicon (one of the largest Twilight fansites) and was so hooked on it that I annoyed a heck of a lot of people for several months until I weaned myself off it. But out of that experience came something brilliant- as dodgy as this may sound- I met my best friend on the Lex. Although we've only known each other for a year and only met up twice in person I fell as though I've known her my whole life- we have so much in common it's scary and we actually got mistaken for being sisters on our first get-together (which was hilarious oh our faces were a picture!). Nowadays neither of us much like the Twilight books since the furor surrounding them has just got to the point of being ridiculous but I do have to give thanks to the books and the Lex for providing the spark for a friendship that I'm going to be glad of for the rest of my life.
Now before you cry "hold on, how off on a tangent are you going?" I do have a point and I'm getting to it, albeit by a very convoluted route. What I'm trying to say is that although I don't like the Twilight books anymore I have to acknowledge the fact that they have had quite a remarkable effect on my life and my reading habits. They are not great literature and they're not going to become classics by which 21st century fiction is defined, not in the slightest, they're books about sparkly freaking vampires for god's sake! But no one can deny the incredible effect these books have had on a whole generation of young people. Some kids who hated reading before they read Twilight now are almost as ravenous for books as kids who've been reading all their lives and are clamouring for more books "like Twilight" (how many times a day bookstore clerks hear those two words I can't possibly imagine). If you can get past the annoying whininess of Bella and the sheer craziness that is the sparkly vampire concept the Twilight books are, initially, thrillingly addictive and you almost can't help speeding through them. Even though on multiple readings they become less brilliant to even a minimally critical reader, they give such a rush to new readers that they can ignore the faults and devour them happily until someone gives them something new to read.
At first my sister wouldn't read the Twilight saga, but when the film came out she became suddenly interested in the books and I lent my copies to her. Since she was not a usual reader it took her a long time to get through all four books but by the time she'd finished them all the Twilight fandom had it's newest recruit. Over the months that followed she re-read those books more times than I actually know, she had to buy replacement copies for two of them since she'd read them almost to the point of tattiness. I had been trying over that time to get her to read some other books so that she wasn't reading just the Twilight books for the rest of her life. She requested suggestions for books with romance in them which is not too difficult to find as most YA books these days have at least some romance in them. So I gave her my favourite Sarah Dessen books to read, Just Listen- unfortunately she didn't really get on with Dessen's brand of romance so I switched tack. Short of Mills and Boon drivel the most romantic books I could think of were Nicholas Sparks' novels - that man is a marvel to me. Almost every book of his that I've read has left me sobbing by the end so I thought they would fit the bill perfectly. And I struck gold- although it wasn't the book I suggested, my sister read his newest book "The Last Song" and within a day of her reading it I got numerous emails and texts in full caps complete with an army of exclamation marks to "READ THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW OR ELSE!!!!" I was completely shocked, where on earth had this monster come from? My sister the devout TV lover who had to be brow-beaten into reading was now demanding vehemently that *I* read something?? Just yesterday when I spoke to her on the phone she said that I would have to read a book that had just arrived at home straight away so that she could read it because it looked really good. I'm both immensely glad and amazed at the change in my sister because now we have something else which we can share and talk about together and that is fantastic after so many years of us being quite different from each other.
So to sum up, although the Twilight saga is regarded by some as the stupidest piece of tosh to appear this century I have to say that it has been enormously helpful to get thousands of young people reading. If a non-reader gets hooked onto these books it's possible to get them to read other books which they may never have dreamt of reading before. Use Twilight as a launch-pad to wider reading, help someone to branch out into other genres depending on what aspect of the series interested the non-reader most, for my sister it was the romance aspect, for others it may be the paranormal creatures- give them a choice of similar books to choose from and see where they want to go from there. (if I'm sounding at all preachy I'm terribly sorry) Who knows, Twilight might get people reading the classics which are mentioned in the books! That'd be a thing to see indeed!
Now I've bored you for far too long so I'll finish here (I really must try and write to a word limit because posts like this are just mental). Thanks if you've read all the way down here and if you want to make a comment then feel free :)