A few days ago we came across a very interesting opinion piece that manages to express some of our concerns regarding what we now call “children's literature”. The article was written by Gregorio Luri for Elperiodico.com and we wanted to share it with you so that we can talk about the relevance of quality content for our children. Bon appetit and good reading.
Reading and the 'fast-book'
I don't like the label "children's and young adult's literature." There is simply good or bad literature and there is very good literature accessible to children. A literature only for children or for young people seems too limited to be good. What I have no doubt about is that children's and young people's literature is a commercial phenomenon comparable to that of self-help books, from which it is often indistinguishable by the way.
Nor do I believe in the benefits of any kind of reading or that any book has thaumaturgical cultural powers by itself. There is terrible literature that is more harmful to children than the industrial bakery that we do not allow into schools.
Just as there is the fast-food, there is the fast-book. It is not literature, but it entertains. Instead of fats, it carries cheesy morals and political correctness propaganda. It is to literature what chewing gum is to gastronomy. There are no descriptions, no difficult words, no complex facts, and, as there are no subjunctives or subordinates. Of thefast-bookanything that could be mistaken as a literary provocation is excluded. Everything in it must be easily chewable and comfortably digestible. Its molding is Spielberg, no Verne or Stevenson. Conclusion:Massagran or the Zoo d’en Pitus they have run out of new readers.
What author of children's literature would dare to say what Manolo Vazquez, the creator of Anacleto secret agent or The Gilda sisters: «My readers are children, but there is a misconception of childhood: children are mean, cruel, mischievous, petardists… I like them that way, because I am like that”?
Precisely because it leaves no trace, the expression "youth literature" is - especially in the case of boys - an oxymoron. Our children read, but when they reach adolescence they turn away from books like the plague. If it's about having fun, they soon discover that there are faster ways to do it. One in four university students does not read a novel a year. This shows that we lack an authentic didactics of reading that is serious about educating the literary culture of young people. To develop reading comprehension –which is the key to the reading habit– four irreplaceable things are needed: the example of adult readers, knowledge, attention and emotional intelligence.
Knowledge is essential because the more we know about a topic, the easier it is for us to read about that topic and the more interested we are in expanding what we already know. Reading interest is not the engine of knowledge, but rather, on the contrary, knowledge is the engine of reading interest. Regarding attention and emotional intelligence, suffice it to say that the best way to educate them is slow reading. There is not coach that it reaches Tolstoy to the sole of the shoes.
I conclude with an important observation: the number of books a child has at home is the best predictor of future school performance.
Gregorio LuriHe is a Spanish philosopher and pedagogue. Doctor in Philosophy from the University of Barcelona and Extraordinary Doctorate Award. He is a professor of Philosophy at the UNED in Barcelona and at the Sabadell School of Design. He collaborates in the newspaper Ara and in Elperiodico.com. He is the author of Better educate. Advice to parents on common sense(2014), Following in the footsteps of the almogávares (2014), The school against the world(2008), Guide not to understand Socrates (2004), Promise yours. Biographies of a myth (2001) and The Socrates process (1998).