Thursday, September 25, 2014

C.S. Lewis on the child as reader

Here’s C.S. Lewis, in “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”:
[T]he neat sorting out of books into age groups, so dear to publishers, has only a very sketchy relation with the habits of any real readers. Those of us who are blamed when old for reading childish books were blamed when children for reading books too old for us. No reader worth his salt trots along in obedience to a time-table.
. . .

The child as reader is neither to be patronized nor idolized: we talk to him as man to man. But the worst attitude of all would be the professional attitude which regards children in the lump as a sort of raw material which we have to handle. We must of course try to do them no harm: we may, under the Omnipotence, sometimes dare to hope that we may do them good. But only such good as involves treating them with respect. We must not imagine that we are Providence or Destiny. I will not say that a good story for children could never be written by someone in the Ministry of Education, for all things are possible. But I should lay very long odds against it.
We can be glad, for his sake, that Lewis didn’t live to see reading instruction in the twenty-first century.


FedUpMom said...

Hi Chris! I actually just wrote a post about teaching reading.

I love Lewis' comment about age-inappropriate reading; I've been reading a lot of kids' books myself recently.

We live in a strange society where we expect people to segregate themselves by age. My Younger Daughter was recently surprised to find that she enjoyed playing with a child who is several years younger. What a strange society we live in, that kids expect to only enjoy the company of others the same age.

Chris said...

FedUpMom! Great to hear from you again. I hope all is well; I've assumed the homeschooling just took up the time that would have gone to blogging.

Yes, I think it's a shame that school seems to have that effect on kids, making them feel like there's something wrong with having a friend who's a different age. In the same way, I think it also results in many kids being very uncomfortable interacting with adults outside the hierarchical student-teacher kind of relationship.

Readers: Here's a link to FedUpMom's post.