Slap Happy Larry

picturebooks, apps, eBooks, short stories

Tag: reading (page 1 of 2)

In reading for character, readers conventionally use their knowledge of the way people in the world around them usually behave to assign traits to characters, to guess about their motivations, to reconstruct their past, or even to predict what they might do after the end of the story.

Reading in this way implies that fiction is a kind of gossip. It assumes that authors say a little bit about the characters they describe so that readers can have the fun of guessing about all the aspects of character and experience they are not told about. […] But, like gossip, guessing about literary characters can misrepresent them by fitting them into categories readers already possess. Readers who want the pleasure of perceiving something more than or something different from what they already know or believ about human nature have to work with a different assumption: that authors carefully select what they choose to say, and that their choices–both what they say and what they don’t say–define what they wish readers to understand.

– The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, Perry Nodelman and Mavis Reimer

Texts often describe how places, people, or objects look or sound or smell. Readers can enrich their experience and increase their understanding by forming mental pictures: by imagining what is being described as exactly as the words of the text allow them to. This process is what theorists of reader-response call “concretization”. […] Concretization is a skill often possessed by children. In fact, imagining as literally and completely as possible the world and the people a text describes is the only way that many children know of building consistency from the texts they read. This seems to be the reason that so many children and other inexperienced readers worry about the logic and coherence of the worlds that texts enable them to concretize–why they so often get angry when there are inconsistent details in descriptions of places and people or confusions in the sequence of events.

On the other hand, concretization is a skill that many adults have forgetten. Many readers have been taught to focus so much on using texts’ potential for engendering sights and smells and sounds. That’s a pity. Not only does it deprive such readers of a source of pleasure, but it also prevents them from understanding the subtle richness of the texts they read.

– The Pleasure of Children’s Literature by Perry Nodelman and Mavis Reimer

Holding On To Enid Blyton

childhood books you can't give away

I grew up in the 1980s and 90s, but this was before parallel importing of books in New Zealand, when books were still super-duper expensive. Few kids owned many and school libraries were quite small. I was lucky to grow up in a household full of books, though these comprised almost entirely of:

1. Little Golden Books

2. Read-It-Yourself books from Ladybird

3. My mother’s childhood books, and for some reason, a number which had belonged to her cousin. These were mostly Famous Five novels, along with a few from Blyton’s Malory Towers series and a few similarly bound ‘girls’ novels’ by Elsie J. Oxenham.

Here is a picture of Elsie J. Oxenham. It was taken in 1910.

Elsie J Oxenham portrait

The photo says it all.

 

 

I never was impressed by Oxenham’s books, which have dated in the most conspicuously terrible way you can imagine. I’ve since passed them on, and perhaps a collector found them at the second hand store. Enid Blyton’s books, however, are harder to get rid of, not because they haven’t dated. Enid Blyton’s books are terrible in ways that are well-known and well-documented by many other modern readers:

Enid Blyton’s Books Were A Product Of Their Time

 

When it comes to Blyton’s notorious characterisations of travellers and gypsies [Cullingford says they are] ‘so absurdly innocent that they are beside the point’, a worrying observations both in light of the fact that, around the same time as Blyton was writing, over 200,000 gypsies were either being killed or had recently been killed in the Nazi death camps, and in light of the fact that Blyton is still promoted in school and very widely read by children.

– Understanding Children’s Literature, edited by Peter Hunt

The reason I’m having trouble giving my Enid Blyton collection away is because the stories are still compelling, and because I have such fond memories of Enid Blyton stories as a child. Again, I’m not alone in this:

500 Million Readers Can’t Be Wrong from Children’s Books Articles

The Enduring Appeal Of Enid Blyton from The Guardian

Some of my Enid Blytons

Some of my Enid Blytons

If there’s any dilemma at all in the first world problem of owning too many books, it is this:

  1. Do I want my daughter to read Enid Blyton, over and over again, like I did?
  2. Did I love the stories of Enid Blyton mainly because I wasn’t exposed to much else?
  3. Is there enough time during childhood for the average reader to get through all of the old classics as well as all the best new ones?
  4. What does it mean to be a well-read child these days, when there is so much out there?
  5. Wouldn’t I prefer my daughter read modern classics over and over, for example the Harry Potter series, which is neither racist nor sexist (at least, if it is, we can’t see it yet)?
  6. Do I donate these Enid Blytons to the second-hand store, or do I keep them here, taking up space on a shelf?
  7. If I give them away, will I feel the hole they have left? After all, those are my childhood memories right there!
  8. If I keep them on the shelf and my daughter finds them, will I be slightly irritated that she’s not reading better stuff, which I have bought for her with good money?
  9. If my daughter reads them, is this an unexpectedly wonderful lesson in 20th Century inequalities, as it was for me?
  10. Is there a danger in sheltering young people from the sexism of earlier eras that they forget things can swing just as quickly back the other way?

What have you done with your childhood books? Do you encourage your children to read those over newer ones? Do you think children should read older books alongside modern publications for a rounded view of recent history?

The Size and Format of Picturebooks

How does the binding of a book affect reader expectations?

What about the size?

 

The actual individual appearance of of individual books is just as obvious an example of how prior expectations control our responses to stories; it influences our attitude to the stories the books contain before we even begin to read them. We expect more distinctive literature from hardcover books with textured, one-color cover and more conventionally popular material from books with luridly colored plastic coatings. we tend to thin differently about paper-covered books and ones with hard covers, and as a result we respond differently to the same story in different formats; what might seem forbidding and respectable in hardcover often seems disposable and unthreatening in soft. 

The size of a book also influences our response to it. We tend to expect rambunctious, energetic stories like the ones by Dr. Seuss from large books and more fragile, delicate stories like those by Beatrix Potter from smaller ones. In fact, larger books do allow larger effects, while smaller ones demand restraint from an illustrator, lest they appear overly fussy; but these differences are as much a matter of convention as of technical limitations. We tend to read smaller books expecting charm and delicacy — and to find it even if it is not there — and to read large books expecting energetic rambunctiousness– and to find it even if it is not there. 

– Words About Pictures by Perry Nodelman

We shouldn’t underestimate the effect of binding and size. One disadvantage of book apps and ebooks is that the reader is not provided with any textural information, and the size is fixed according to the dimensions of the device.

That said, a universal book app created for iOS (for instance) may well be interpreted very differently depending on whether it is read on an iPhone, an iPad mini, an iPad, a Mac screen or projected onto a smart board.

Robots Reading To Children

The Jibo Family Robot

The Jibo Family Robot

While much is being said about digital stories which supposedly get between the adult and the parent, I wonder what might be said about this little device: a ‘family robot’ which is shown not just reading a book to a little girl (and blowing down her tent, Nosy Crow Pig style) but then doing the bedtime routine by wishing her goodnight.

jibo_capabilties

Teens and Reading

Kids with parents who read, who buy or take books out of the library for their kids, and who then set time aside in their kids’ daily schedule for reading, tend to read the most.

Why Don’t Teens Read For Pleasure Like They Used To?

tldr version: there are other things to do

List Challenges: Children’s Books

How many Scholastic’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids (and 4 More) have you read? (Me 19, one star)

How many of The 50 Best Books for Kids have you read? (Me 16, two stars)

How many Newbery Medal Winners 1922-2013 have you read? (Me 3, no stars — I definitely need to read some more Newbery Medal winners.)

 

 

Is Any Kind Of Reading Better Than No Reading At All?

I always argue no.

Seventeen-Magazine

 

When I was a teacher of high school English at a girls’ school I encountered a number of parents who purchased Dolly, Girlfriend and similarly image-obsessed/gossipy/consumerist magazines for their daughters because ‘at least she’s reading something’. And here’s what I wondered:

Had these parents read the magazines themselves?

Did they consider their daughters might be doing quite a bit of reading, just not from novels? (From general coursework, such as maths textbooks, the pop-up windows on games, from the barrage of advertising copy that is everywhere, from social media…) Teenagers are probably doing more reading than you think they are…

So if you want to supplement their reading material, curate carefully, because there are a lot of really nasty people out there shifting product to teenage girls by perpetuating a toxic culture of insecurity and nastiness. The share holders of these magazines are a prime example. Let’s not support their empires.

Also, just because literature-for-girls comes packaged like a novel doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be much different from the contents of these magazines. See: What Is YA Chick-lit Doing To Our Girls?

Tough Boys Read and Write (In Private)

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I didn’t read a novel all the way through until after high school. Blasphemy, I know. I’m an author now. Books and words are my world. But back then I was too caught up in playing ball and running with the fellas. Guys who read books — especially for pleasure — were soft. Sensitive. And if there was one thing a guy couldn’t be in my machista, Mexican family, it was sensitive. My old man didn’t play that. Neither did my uncles or cousins or basketball teammates. And I did a good job fitting myself into the formula.

But there was something missing.

– Matt de la Peña writes about the shame of reading and creative writing for boys in a hyper-masculine subculture

 

I’d just like to point out that when it comes to boys and reading, it’s not the books that are the problem. There are already plenty of books out there that boys would like, and authors don’t need to start making all of their protagonists a certain type of boy in order for boys to read them. The problem is not the books; the problem is the culture.

drziggystardust:

skeptikhaleesi:

Some interesting info: This is very reminiscent of the Baby X experiments, in which it was discovered that people reacted differently to a baby’s behavior depending on whether or not they believed the baby to be male or female.  People were asked to watch a video of a baby reacting to a startling image (a Jack-in-the-box popping up), and describe the baby’s emotional state.  When people believed the baby to be female, they described the baby as being scared and upset; when they thought the baby was male, they perceived the baby to be angry.  This was very telling, as it showed that literally identical behavior could be construed differently based on the perceived gender of the subject.

Now imagine a lifetime of gender specific socialization- male anger is par for the course while the same emotion in a woman is personal weakness. Ha oh sorry don’t have to imagine THAT’S REALITY 

The Difficulty Of A Book…

…cannot be measured by a lexile rating.

According to The Atlantic, Teachers [in America] Are Supposed to Assign Harder Books, but They Aren’t Doing It Yet.

There’s something strange, though, about positioning a book somewhere on the continuum that starts with ‘easy’ and ends with ‘difficult’, because a book’s difficulty, aside from the most basic of measures such as frequency of lesser-used vocabulary, rests not upon the work itself, but in how it is taught.

This issue is close to my heart because I happen to think that even the ‘easiest’ picturebooks can be used as a jump-off point to explore a wide range of difficult themes and ideas. Non-fiction reading of adult difficulty can very naturally accompany the study of the easiest of fiction readers when reading is guided by a good classroom teacher.

I feel very uneasy when discussions on ‘difficulty’ begin and end with grade levels and lexile ratings.

 

See also: Federal Bureaucrats Declare ‘Hunger Games’ More Complex Than ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. I don’t see any problem with The Hunger Games being taught as a serious text, but this article does throw up the limitations of the lexile rating.

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