Okay, post two.
As you may or may not be aware, this year I’ve been training to become an English teacher. Being a teacher is great – rewarding, inspiring, challenging, and above all it reminds you of how and why you got into your passions in the first place.
I loved English as a kid. I loved reading. I loved writing. The two were not mutually exclusive things; instead, it was what I read that inevitably inspired me to pick up a pen and begin writing. Over the last few years, the British Government has made some good changes to the curriculum: allowing teen fiction into the curriculum, such as the exceptional ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’ by Mark Haddon, and ‘Martyn Pig’ by Melvin Brooks. Subversive, delicate, easy to read, wonderful books, that enhance a child’s reading and interest in the more difficult texts, like Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare.
So imagine my surprise when I saw the new English framework. No children’s literature. Oh no. Instead? A 19th century novel.
Oh yeah. A 19th century novel. Most of which, by the way, I hate. No 14 year old boy is going to want to read Dickens. Hell, I’m 23, and I don’t want to read Dickens. Thomas Hardy and the Brontes are going to be not only lost on children, but it’s going to put them off reading for life. Imagine if you were a low achiever, struggling through Jane Eyre.
And not only that – it’s tested only at the end of the two year course. So you have to MEMORISE chunks of Jane Eyre over a two year period.
I’m sorry. What is this going to achieve?
Books are for enjoyment. No child is ever going to want to read again if they cannot even feel like they can access a text. And what does this, ultimately, mean for writing?
Perhaps I’m going a little bit off the wall here, but this can only spell disaster for the study of English and the enjoyment of the written word. I find it hard enough trying to get children to read, let alone read difficult texts. The correct book can change a child’s life. And if we’re meant to be pushing reading for pleasure, shouldn’t we push these books in class?