1. Harry Potter is destroying reading?

    jake on 2007.07.20
    at 07:20 pm

    Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsRon Charles doesn’t really succeed at making me dislike Harry Potter. I’m still going to steal the new book. from my brother tomorrow when his back’s turned. Though Ron’s not really attempting that, even if it seems like he’s putting down people who read about the boy wizard. His article is more about trying to get the public to read more than Harry Potter. The problem is he trips up repeatedly in his quest. His only actual argument is a study by Alan Sorensen and his assumption that There’s not much reason to think that things have changed since the reference data from 1994.

    Of course it’s easy for Mr Charles to seem stuffy to me. He’s an actual adult. I only play one on the Internet. I’m riding the wave of the Rejuvenile. I, at least somewhat, remember what being a kid was like.

    Schools now push standardized testing. But for a long while they’ve avoided creative thinking. They’ve always seemed to leave outside books behind. He even brings this up with his reflections on being a teacher.

    …I wish I’d spent less time dragging my students through the classics and more time showing them how to strike out on their own and track down new books they might enjoy.

    It’s not until college that most people start receiving more robust tutelage that doesn’t center on memorization and regurgitation. And that has nothing to do with reading for fun. As adults we need to relocate that interest all over again. Most of us don’t.

    And Mr Charles misses something when he brings up marketing and the long tail. He tries to promote the long tail as if it were to replace the big head. The head will never go away. The long tail is all about the smaller authors, who would never get picked up by a huge publisher, finding an audience. That’s their marketing.

    The long tail replaces his mistake in teaching. It also replaces the book sections of newspapers he mournfully writes about. It takes your interests and promotes books and authors you might find appealing. The trick is learning to critically follow the path. Explore and find. It’s not always correct. But it is how I found a book I love, a book he mentions, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel.

    It is sad that Mr Charles has such a bleak outlook on our society and reading. There are so many things he could do, like starting a book suggestion blog, that would be more productive than complaining. Everyone should read more. But you don’t accomplish that by attacking what novel they choose. Even if you think that book is childish.

    Does anyone have anything to add? I’m going to go pre-order the paperback of a book Mr Charles recommends, The Law of Dreams. ;-)

    Via Digg

    Posted in: Books


    Comments (2)

    1. Amanda said on 2007.07.22 at 06:52 pm

      Ron Charles makes some interesting points. I’m all for the diversification of what people read (though I must admit that I am one of those people who tend to latch onto the hit books of the moment). I would love to see children and adults exposed to a wider variety of authors and titles. As a public school employee I have to comment on the point about standardized testing. Teachers and most administrators of public schools would rather not focus all their efforts on teaching to standardized tests and relying on rote memorization of facts. Many that I work with strive to foster as much creativity as they can in their students. Unfortunately, with budget cuts that eliminate art/music and mandates such as No Child Left Behind they are caught in a situation where they need to teach such high level skills in order for their students to score proficient on state tests. If school systems fail to reach the goals set by the state they risk loosing funding and accreditation. Now I know that we need standards and that children need to learn how to read and write, math facts, science, etc. but there has to be a way to do that without sacrificing creativity. I guess if I knew how to do that I would be a policy maker instead of a counselor :) Ok, I’m off my soapbox and will now go back to reading Harry Potter (not the new one, not there yet). I guess my attempt to move on to new, lesser known authors will have to wait a little longer!

    2. Jake said on 2007.07.23 at 03:33 pm


      Actually Amanda that was the point I was trying to get across. It’s nice to have someone “inside” to give a better perspective.

      At this point I assume I’ll be pushing any future children toward creativity myself.

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