Venn Librarian

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"Literary Daylight"

Posted by lpearle on 29 October 2008

This article from The Guardian talks about the love children have for the books of Enid Blyton. In it, Lucy Morgan says

When children go through their Enid Blyton phase, parents are best advised simply to shovel the necessary volumes at their offspring, then hunker down and pray for literary daylight.

As a friend to people with young children, and as a school librarian, I’ve seen many authors and series that meet with the complaint that the books are literary crap and heard much moaning about getting them to “read better.” Remember the fuss over Goosebumps? Sweet Valley High? The librarian I had in sixth grade worried that I spent all my time reading Nancy Drew (she didn’t know about my previous Victoria Holt or Alexander Dumas phases).

My goal – our goal – is to encourage reading. Any type of reading. Reading of cereal boxes. Comic strips. Books. Magazines and ezines.

I don’t recommend putting cereal boxes on your library shelves, but the other stuff? Remember: it’s the patron’s library. Not yours.

Doug’s been talking about post-literate societies (I think it’s more of a return to the Good (Very, Very, Very, Very, VERY) Old Days. I’m reminded of my time in graduate school. One of my professors asked us about the greatest invention ever – what one invention had affected more change than any other. Fire? The printing press? The wheel? He argued that it was the alphabet, and grudgingly agreed to include codified writing systems. For the first time, knowledge could be “permanent” – you no longer had to be there when something happened or was being discussed.

As we move into a world where icons and ereaders and graphic novels and “lesser” forms of reading have more and more prominence, isn’t it better if we just encourage reading in any form? Do we want reading to go the way of cursive (aka “joined up” or “script”) handwriting?

And then there’s the casual racism in Blyton’s. That’s nothing new. And yes, it’s worrisome. Speaking as someone who has read many of Blyton’s books, as well as many Ellery Queen’s and other now-politically incorrect authors, one learns. Narrowing people’s reading to that which agrees with our ideas and thoughts narrows society – allowing students to say “oh, that’s wrong. we don’t say/talk about/do those things any more” is a far more valuable lesson.

More later.


2 Responses to “"Literary Daylight"”

  1. Ellysa said

    I completely agree with you (of course!)I have to say that being a parent has broadened my vision on this somewhat, thanks to Junie B. Jones. I now understand much more the choices parents can make in helping guide their child’s reading habits. Would I keep Junie B. off the shelves in my library? Of course not. Am I going to pick Junie B. books as nightly reading with my daughter? no way. But it’s like separation of church and state–my choices as a parent would in no way impact or change my choices as a librarian. And would I tell my daughter that she can’t check Junie B. books out of her school library? No way. Once she’s out of my realm, the choice is hers entirely, and i want her school library to stock a wide range of reading materials, not just the books that the librarian feels are fit for his/her students’ consumption. (That just doesn’t mean I have to read them with her at night!)(fwiw, we’re currently working our way through the Betsy / Tacy series, much more enjoyable than Junie B. books.)

  2. Anonymous said

    I’m a big believer in reading, of any kind and whatever gets them started reading is great, eventually, hopefully, they’ll branch out into other things, but they’ve got to find it enjoyable first.Shree

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