Earlier this month, Doctor Who head writer Steven Moffat made comments that could rouse a Janeite’s ire. He said that kids should be given exciting books to read, rather than classics like Jane Austen: “You probably don’t want to start off with Jane Austen to be absolutely honest. There are no explosions at all!”
What?? Jane not exciting enough for… Wait. What age kid was Moffat talking about?
Primary school. I have to say, I can’t really argue with him on that. One of the top ten frustrating things I watch at the library is parents refusing to let their young children read what excites them. “Get something other than Star Wars.” “You read too many graphic novels–pick a real book this time.” One parent, when I asked what kind of books her son liked to read, looked at me blankly and said, “I don’t know. We usually read what I like.”
Moffat’s point, and one I agree with 100%, is that the people who read classics and literary fiction as adults were excited about books as children. They were excited about books because they were allowed to read things they found exciting. When a child shows up for her first piano lesson, the teacher doesn’t give her Beethoven. No, you start with scales and then small pieces and work your way up to classical music. Reading should be the same way.
Branching off topic slightly, this also connects into Banned Books Week which is coming up Sept 30-Oct 6. Books in themselves are not bad, just like a strain of music is not, in itself, evil. I do encourage parents to be involved in the reading choices of their children, but that doesn’t mean they should control what other children read. Also, there is value in reading a controversial book with your child and then discussing it together. Keeping lines of communication open is so important, and it can begin with books.
AND FURTHER! (Lots of stuff in this post!) Very soon on Indie Jane, there will be an insert you can print out and slip inside your Jane Austen books before you set them free in the wild. I’ve got a whole post on this going up next Thursday, but since this post is about setting readers free, and that project is about setting books free, it seemed appropriate to mention it here.
And just because I like to include a bit of fun, here’s the first mini-episode of the five part prequel to series 7 of Doctor Who.