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Is there such a thing as ‘too much’ reading?

I had a very interesting discussion with my dentist’s wife (from herein she shall be referred to as Mrs F) the other day. She is a retired English teacher, who has a real passion for high quality education and reading. We were talking about the changes to the curriculum and how this may, or may not, effect future learning for pupils. The banter went on for a while and then she made a comment which took me by surprise. She said that ‘Literature shouldn’t be taught in schools.’ I took a rapid intake of breath, so she went on to clarify her position.

In a nutshell, Mrs F’s views is that we should expose children to all genres of literature, but we should not examine them at the end of it. I asked if she felt the same about other curriculum areas and she said that she did not. So, why then, such opposition to an examination in English Literature? Because, she said ‘Reading too much into a text ruins you as a reader.’ And, she went on, ‘who is an examiner to say if the child’s opinions are right or wrong?’

I am sure that Mrs F is not the first to raise such a point, but it got me thinking nonetheless. I have often said that although I enjoyed my degree and MA, in a way, they have ‘ruined’ me as reader. I am not very good at just reading for the sake of it. If a writer’s style irks me, I just refuse to carry on, even if the premise of the book is interesting. There are many books which Mr Frog has recommended to me, where I haven’t got through the first chapter because of grammatical errors or the over-use of a particular word or phrase. The worst sin though is the over-use of the exclamation mark!!!!  I think that my education has made me a book-snob. There, I’ve admitted it. My name is Natasha and I am a book-snob. I think I need help.

Should our experience of great literature look like this,

or this?

Thoughts on an e-postcard please.

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The independent children's bookshop and tuition centre in the heart of Brentwood, Essex. Owned and run by Mr Frog & Mrs Chicken (happily married book-nerds), with the sole aim of bringing high quality books and tuition to our community.