Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guest Post by Jill Shure: Reading Should be an Adventure!

Why do Americans believe that reading a novel is like taking toxic smelling medicine? Is it because we were often forced to read extremely boring texts throughout high school and college? Did reading Beowulf and Paradise Lost forever kill your ability to enjoy a good book? I, too, did my time reading books which were supposedly good for me. Like spinach, they were meant to nourish me. But my personal belief is that the pretensions of educators and certain factions of the public make reading less of an adventure and more like a tedious journey.

I personally grew up devouring Nancy Drew books. My older sister handed me down the original versions published before 1959. And though my grade school teacher discouraged me from reading these mysteries, I read the entire series. Yes, I was also forced to read the classics. But those early reading pleasures of curling up with Nancy Drew inspired me to go on to enjoy all sorts of adult fiction. I finished high school having read works by Tolstoy, Joseph Conrad, and Dostoyevsky. In college I read most of William Faulkner, Hemingway, Eugene O'Neil, Tennessee Williams, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, now regarded as a literary genius, actually wrote popular fiction in his day, achieving early fame with his first novel, This Side of Paradise. This bestseller was not praised for its high literary appeal but for how well it depicted the post World War I generation. It was Fitzgerald's 1920s view of wild youth indulging in outlawed whiskey, sexual misconduct, and what we would call excessive "partying" today.

I just wish the public would accept that reading should be pleasurable. Because books can improve your imagination, your vocabulary, and educate you about the world. And kids will read if they're inspired to. Just think of those Harry Potter books and those vampire novels kids are devouring.

So if your eleven-year-old son hates reading, try finding a biography of a sports hero he admires. Or the autobiography of a musician he's wild about. And if children see you reading for pleasure, they might get the idea that sitting on their beds with a good book is fun.

Don't worry about someone else's idea of what literature is. Read whatever you like. And if you hate a book, put it down. There are too many wonderful books out there to bore yourself.

Because reading encourages more reading. It certainly did wonders for me. I enjoyed it so much I became a writer. In fact I wrote a mystery called A CLAUSE FOR MURDER thanks to those hours spent with Nancy Drew. It's a cozy mystery which will give you hours of pleasure and make you laugh. Because I also believe that laughter is one of the greatest pleasures on earth.

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