Like many people who are now avid readers, I got into reading at a young age. From around the age of five, when I started the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, I discovered the joy of getting lost in a fictional world, and I haven't lost this love as I've gotten older.
But for a lot of people, this is not the case, with only 26% of England’s 10 year olds said to ‘like reading’ and only 37% of children reported to read for pleasure.
I think a lot of it comes down to the experiences with reading we encounter at school. If you don't read independently for enjoyment, then as a child or teenager, school is the only time when you will be encouraged to read more. But reading is seen as a chore throughout school years, instead of a hobby. Working in a school the past few months, it has been genuinely sad to see how so many children have no interest in reading. Many just haven't found the right book yet, but aren't inspired to go and find it.
Maybe it's just that we now live in a modern age, where high-budget series are available to stream instantly on Netflix or Amazon Prime. I often hear from children that books are too boring, as they begin excited discussions on what has happened in the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars or The Vampire Diaries. Yet, many don’t realise that a lot of the programmes they love originate from novels, and instead of forming their own interpretation of these stories, they are limiting themselves to someone else’s version. No matter how much I tell people the book is almost ALWAYS better than the film, I get little more than an eye-roll in return.
School is the only time that we are forced to read, but instead of encouraging more reading, it seems to do the opposite. So does it come down to the fact we are uninspired by the texts we are given? Maybe the reading syllabus is outdated and we are in need of stories that people can relate to more. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of Steinbeck, Golding, and Dickens, but I am also someone with a more than average interest in reading, hence why I chose to study it further. People who aren't that into reading aren't going to feel as strongly as I or any other bookish person would. The prose of GCSE texts are often long and difficult - not exciting enough to inspire someone to think differently about reading.
In my opinion, the main issue is the way it is taught. Not because of a particular teacher's methods, but because school now is all about achieving grades and memorising key quotes. There's no time to just enjoy the story and characters; its about what parts will get you the marks. You are forced to read a book that might not be your cup of tea, and then have to revise it over and over. It's no wonder that the interest has gone. You can just pretend you're listening and read chapter summaries on Sparknotes later, where the key points you need will be laid out for you. The aim is only to pass the exam, not improve literacy - that's the problem.
I wasn't immune to this either, and found myself losing interest in reading as I got older. I felt so bogged down by close analysis and figuring out the writer's intentions that I couldn't enjoy a book as a whole. I was lucky in that I had brilliant teachers who showed me that I just needed to read the right book. I was given Shutter Island as a loan and it reminded me that reading can be just as exciting and addictive as binge-watching TV. Since then my love for reading has only grown; there is a right book for everyone, they just need the inspiration to look for it.
What did you think of reading at school? Was there a particular book that inspired you? Let me know in the comments below!