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Author Topic: Paul Jennings on what kids want to read  (Read 5432 times)
Rev. Austin
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« on: August 29, 2010, 04:12:22 PM »

Paul Jennings is one of my all-time favourite writers, and in trying to see if I could find an online version of one of his stories (the incredible A Dozen Bloomin' Roses) I found this link on his actual website to a brilliant blog post about what he likes to put into, and see used in, kid's stories.  It's really interesting, and thought I'd share it!

http://www.pauljennings.com.au/blogs.asp?cid=33
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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2010, 05:39:57 PM »

Thanks for posting that link. I agree with everything in his list and comments but boy doesn't he use a lot of verbage to say it!

Geoff
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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2010, 07:03:47 PM »

That was an interesting post.  It is very alarming to me that people don't read today. I know that neither of our kids read with the frequency that my wife and I did growing up. Perhaps it is the technology today or maybe it is the sheer number of activities that a child can be involved in. Not sure about that. 
I think I must have been a "different" kind of reader than the kids that Jennings is writing about. I don't remember reading to try to work through my fears and I most definately didn't read with a desire to see the bad guy get punished. In fact, even today, if a story has a happy ending or the bad guy is defeated by the good guy, I tend to feel cheated. It's as if the "fictive dream" we talk about in crit group has been messed up..... scratch
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Geoff_N
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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2010, 03:34:40 AM »

That's interesting, GM. I can't think of a single kid's story in which the bad guy wasn't punished. Are you saying you used to read such stories as a child or have I grabbed the wrong end of the stick - the sticky end?
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2010, 04:13:26 AM »

You can tell he likes writing, can't you? I had teachers that rambled on like that at school, and I'd switch off well before they got to the point.  rolleyes

Basically, kids like something to be happening, all the time. I remember sitting mine down in front of films I know they'll love, but within minutes they've wandered off, because nothing's holding their attention during the build-up to the action. But when I think about it, I'm sure I was more prepared to invest my time in something and wait for the denouement, when I was their age. Perhaps it's because I had limited options, whereas they've got something to keep them engaged all the time. Is it better, or worse? I don't know. Perhaps it's only different.
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2010, 04:36:34 AM »

I have to admit I started skimming the article after a bit. The point he misses is that many children aren't interested in reading fiction, and there's not a damn thing you can do about that. You can't make a 'story' exciting or enthralling to them unless they know it's 'real'. If they suspect it's fiction, it's 'not true' as far as they're concerned, and they can't be bothered wasting their time reading it. Now, we know on this forum that fiction IS true, but in a different way: we know that for us it's the best way of exploring the human condition, but many readers don't think like this and never will and that's fine. It really is. My husband's a case in point. Never read a book as a child. Can't read fiction now because he can't get motivated and hates having to 'remember all those names'. But he devours high quality newspapers on a daily basis, and is enthralled by things like the money and business sections and world events in the same way that I'd get enthralled by galactic political events in a superior piece of sci-fi. It's all down to personality in the end. We should stop worrying about non-reading kids. My daughter devoured fiction as a child, my son didn't. Daughter's got a degree in philosophy, son's got a degree in maths. Son sees stories in mathematical formulae rather than literal story books. The patterns and shapes of numbers mean more to him than the patterns and shapes in a work of fiction. Does this matter? He's perfectly literate. He surprised himself the other week by enjoying some poetry at a reading, but it's not going to make him ever pick up a poetry book. That's fine.

I think we should stop worrying about whether children are reading. Make sure a wide range of books are available to them at home, and then let them get on with it. If they want to read, they'll read. If they don't want to read, it's because their brains work in a slightly different way and trying to find 'tricks' to get them into books is pointless.
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2010, 05:34:42 AM »

I'm assuming that the date at the top of the blog post means it's from an old interview/article...?  Maybe his opinion(s) have changed a bit since 1988  Wink Mind you, having said that, another one of his blog posts is a lengthy discourse on the 'death of books', so maybe not. 

My brother doesn't read because he gets bored easily, yet he'll happily watch a film I suggest, even if it's a slow one, whereas I have very little patience with slow-moving books - I almost stopped reading Clive Barker's Great and Secret Show because there are huge boring sections in it.  I hope if I have kids they devour books as much as I did when I was a nipper, but if they don't I won't worry - just as long as they don't get football mad instead  grin
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2010, 05:52:25 AM »

Oh good -- another football hater cheers I get excluded from a lot of manly conversations/pursuits because I don't care what a bunch of men who chase balls for a living are up to at the moment. Perhaps there's something wrong with us if we don't feel the need to live vicariously through a bunch of overpaid halfwits we've never met. We seem to be in the minority, after all, don't we?

I used to read a hell of a lot when I was a kid. I'll always remember how astounded my teacher was when at the age of about nine she tested my vocabulary and found she couldn't trip me up, no matter how far back she went in the huge book of words, through luncheon, octogenarian, and on to xenophobe. I think I peaked right there, sadly. grin

My kids don't read at all, and their reading aloud is woefully bad. I can't understand why, though, because we both spent a lot of time when they were younger reading them bedtime stories and getting them involved with reading books.
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2010, 11:32:57 AM »

Yeah I hate football Ed - my nightmare when I went to university was that I'd get in a block with some alds who were dead keen on football - and I did.  But thankfully they were also dead keen on music, films and books so it was all okay in the end  grin

When I was a nipper, my brother and I shared a bedroom and we used to go to bed listening to audio books.  Do you guys do that/did that with your kids? 
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2010, 02:27:31 PM »

No, but it might be a good idea. The only thing is, they both tend to fall asleep pretty soon after their head hits the pillow, so they might hear quite a lot of chapter one and nothing of the rest afro
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2010, 07:20:02 PM »

Geoff said:
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That's interesting, GM. I can't think of a single kid's story in which the bad guy wasn't punished. Are you saying you used to read such stories as a child or have I grabbed the wrong end of the stick - the sticky end?

I'm sure that I did read stories where the bad guy was punished. They are a staple of young people's literature. I guess what I was trying to say was that wasn't why I read them. I read books for their power to engage my imagination and take me places I had never been. ( I still do this today.)  I didn't read them to work out my fears or because I needed affirmation that the "good" guy always wins out in the end. 
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2010, 03:05:55 PM »

Interesting article and discussion. I read voraciously as a child and, time permitting, still do so. Again, perhaps because there wasn't much to do atop a mountain in the 70s but play in the woods all day or read books. My oldest is just learning to recognize letters and write them, but she will quickly go and pull a book off of the shelf and make up her own stories to the pictures on the pages. It's interesting to me to snoop on her and listen to her imagination run, quite literally, wild with description. I hope it continues as she grows.
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