It still amazes me that many adults don’t read fiction. I used to take it for granted that everyone did, until a chance comment from a friend, an artist, shocked me to the core. ‘No, I don’t read stories’, she said, ‘in fact I don't read much at all. I don't have time'. She might as well have said ‘I don’t breathe.’
Sadly, I’ve since discovered that ‘not reading stories’ is quite common, even among teachers. Perhaps it’s all that paperwork. No time to read anything other than the latest advice about improving their performance and meeting the agreed ‘learning outcomes'. Pah.
Fiction didn’t feature much on the curriculum in my own school days, during the 50s and 60s, and there was certainly no discussion about what we read in our spare time. We were allowed to read a book, carefully censored, at playtime, as aimless running about was frowned on. In class we read the Greek Myths, Arthur Grimble’s ‘A Pattern of Islands’ (non-fiction) and CS Forester’s ‘The Ship’, which I can’t now recall. Then, because I took Latin, I was not able to take English Literature for O Level, so it was something of an eye-opener when I came to study fiction for A Level. Suddenly, there was a world of commentary on the human condition, from such authors as CS Lewis, Iris Murdoch, George Eliot, Conrad, Lawrence, Hemingway and the ‘moderns’, contemporary writers, Alan Sillitoe, Shelagh Delaney,Alan Paton, Arnold Wesker, James Baldwin, all wonderful authors who spoke about relationships, love, sex, race and gender, without prejudice. And my cramped wings spread as I started to understand important lessons, under the gentle persuasion of their stories.
Someone once said to me, ’You can’t learn about life from books, you know’. Pah. You can, you know.
All the stories we share with our children teach them the real stuff they need to live well. About friends and kindness, respect for the earth and living things, about war and peace, famine and plenty, justice and injustice. About families and how to make things right after a falling out, about serious illness and disability and what life is like when you lose someone you love, about heroism and sacrifice and survival. How to judge what’s worth aiming for, and what’s not, what will stand through time, and what will fade away like mist.
This magic doesn’t stop when you grow up. The stories just get better, richer, more challenging.
Do you know anyone who doesn't read stories? I wonder what would make them start. Is it too late when you're grown up?
Coming soon! A new edition of 'Warrior Girl'.
A story set in the time of Joan of Arc.
Published by Cybermouse Books.