26 Aug 2011

Should they be reading Jane Eyre?

This Gabriel on a sleeper train in Egypt, with his holiday reading. He loves it. It’s Bear Grylls’ life story and is all about Bear being daring and adventurous, climbing up the chapel tower at Eton and going on to risk the summit of Everest. And succeeding.
Oh, and jumping out of a plane and breaking his back just at the point when he had been accepted into the SAS. I’ve read it too, and it’s not bad. But its not Great Literature. So when Phoebe (14) went to stay with Grandfather and produced One Day (also not Great Literature), my father groaned. “Why aren’t you reading Jane Eyre?” Later (to me) “Why don’t you get the children reading really good stuff?” Well, I know. But frankly after chasing them for holiday practise, and organising cricket weeks and sheaves of Summer Kumon, and Latin, I haven’t really got the energy to force them into the orange and white terrain of the Penguin Classics. I’m reading 1984 to the older two and Little House on the Prarie (an absolute classic in my view) to the middle one. But as for their own reading material, I’m inclined to leave them to it. What do other parents think? Should I leave tempting piles of Jane Austen and EM Forster lying around and hope it will get into their minds to read them by sort of osmosis? Or is Bear Grylls and David Mitchell enough? Is it enough that they are reading anyway – or is the summer break a valuable time to get going on something more demanding?

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