I’ve struggled with reading recently. In lockdown, when I should have been able to give my TBR pile a good bashing, I’ve barely read anything, discarding several things after not being able to get started properly. I’m not naming them, because it’s definitely me, not them.
Apparently, quite a lot of people have had similar focus issues this year. I felt a lot better about it when I saw Malorie Blackman, of all people, tweet that she’d struggled to focus on reading during lockdown. If a grande dame of YA like Malorie has been struggling, who am I to expect to be able to focus?
I’m a bit behind on my reviews (to say the least) for this reason, but it also got me thinking about the pressure we put on reading. Reading is not a benign leisure activity. There is all sorts of pressure and value attached to what – and even how – we read. I was really interested to see Jess Mason’s research into reading and identity – see her pinned tweet for a talk about her initial findings.
People will misrepresent what they have read or what type of thing they tend to read, and there’s all kinds of snobbery about the medium of reading (audiobooks being ‘not real reading’, for example, which is nonsense, never mind ableist nonsense). Ebooks also face snobbery, when in fact reading electronically is convenient and easy to accommodate, as well as hiding covers if you don’t want people to judge you for your tastes!
And in schools, of course, we see people pressuring kids to read classics or ‘better’ or ‘harder’ books over books they enjoy regularly. This is pointless (and often self-defeating) when they are meeting those kinds of books in class already and could easily be left to read what they like in their own time.
Quick links for any teachers wanting to discuss this with students (might be of interest in an A Level Eng Lang CLA lesson, or GCSE tasks could be built around one of the articles…):
- Secondary school pupils are picking books that are too ‘easy’ for them – so here are 10 titles all kids should read (The Sun online, 28 Feb 2020)
- (I’d discuss which of these are most appropriate, and for which ages. Do students have other suggestions? Why – and how – have these ‘too easy’ titles been chosen?)
- Reading: Are teenagers falling out of love with books? (BBC Wales, 3 Dec 2019)
- (Again, lots to discuss here in terms of why, and what assumptions is the piece making? What ‘counts’ as reading, for example?)
- Audiobooks aren’t ‘cheating’: here’s why (Rewire, Oct 5, 2019)
- (This ones’s here as a more positive example, and gives some evidence, which is helpful. Do students use audiobooks or podcasts? Do their families? How/under what circumstances?)
- Why can’t I concentrate? How to find focus as lockdown eases (Stylist)
- (Here as helpful evidence, and advice on improving concentration in these times…)