“You can only live your one tiny life, but with books, you can live thousands more.”
I love getting stuck into a really good book; Immersing yourself into someone else’s story until you laugh with them, cry with them and share their happy ending.
I guess it’s a similar feeling with films, but there is something truly special and pure about words on a page that transport you into someone else’s world.
A world created by someone sitting at a desk with a laptop- or back in the day a pen and paper- and a mind full of ideas.
I have read hundreds of books that have captured my vivid imagination. I’ve explored with Topsy and Tim, shouted and screamed with Tracey Beaker, experienced the awkward teenage years with Georgia Nicholson and come of age with Edie Wheeler as I journeyed through childhood.
Since then, I’ve graduated from the children’s section of the book shop and read my fair share of classics too.
While studying English Literature may put others off some books, I remember these texts fondly. In fact, I’d count ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ as one of my all time favorites.
And that’s why the news that Education Secretary, Michael Gove plans to drop American authors from the GCSE syllabus was really disappointing and quite frankly, baffling.
I agree that British writers should be studied and celebrated but why narrow the curriculum in order to do this?
Dickens, Shakespeare, Austen, Pinter and the Brontes have all featured somewhere in my education. But there’s no need to limit study choices just because they are English. A book should be chosen for it’s message, it’s symbolism, it’s narrative and not because we should learn about our culture and our culture only.
And the wide choice of books should certainly not be narrowed simply because someone in authority ‘”really dislikes it.”
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’ may still be available in the school library but the opportunity to analyse and discuss them in incredible detail, will be lost.
There is also the issue of encouraging children into reading at all to consider. If a child does not enjoy reading in the way I’ve outlined, motivating them to read of their own accord can be tough.
Limiting their choice when it comes to compulsory reading is not going to help.
And when it comes to reading for pleasure, where the book came from does not really matter. If a good book at school encourages a student to read then it has done it’s job, and a good grade is always a bonus.
Will making the syllabus focused entirely around English novels suddenly mean every child is as passionate about reading as us bookworms?
Sometimes a story resonates so much with how you feel at a certain time it’s affect is incredibly powerful. I remember when I was going through a bit of a hard time at secondary school, reading ‘Just Listen’ by Sarah Dessen and suddenly I felt like someone finally understood how I’d been feeling. It was a perfectly constructed story, and it didn’t even matter that it was American.
And in the same way, reading a romantic love story even when you’re feeling sad and alone can be really uplifting. Sharing in a fictional character’s happy ending when you couldn’t feel further from your own gives you hope.
For me, and I guess for many others too, reading is escapism. Getting lost in someone else’s world can take you far away from the trials and tribulations of every day life.
Books are more than just words on a page. They might just be stories but they are stories that give you hope, inspire you and sometimes, change the way you see the world. No matter where they are from.
With ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, it’s most important message is morality. After all, Atticus Finch did say: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
I’ll use this wisdom to try and understand Mr Gove’s logic, I just wonder if he has considered this while imposing his reforms.