Does excessive analysis of books put kids off reading? Author Frank Cottrell Boyce thinks it may just do that.
Cottrell Boyce recounts one experience when he read aloud in a school. “There’s a humbling, Homeric magic in the sight of a crowd of children sitting down waiting to listen to your story.”
After he read his story, he recalls, a young, newly qualified teacher addressed the children. “She said: ‘We’re going to use our listening skills to try and spot his wow words and his connectives so that we can appreciate how he builds the story.’
“Time and time again I come across teachers reading a story and then asking immediately for some kind of feedback. A piece of ‘creative writing’ ‘inspired by’ the story. Some opinions about character and wow words. Something to show the parents or the school inspectors.
“It pollutes the reading experience by bringing something transactional in to play. It destroys pleasure.”
Pleasure in reading, Cottrell Boyce will say, is deeply important. “Pleasure is a profound and potent form of attention, a kind of slow thinking.”
He continues: “When I offer you a story I don’t want you to come back to me with a description of how I did it. I don’t think of my reader as a trainee writer. I’m hoping that it stays in your mind and comes out in different ways I could never have predicted – as an engineering idea, as a cake, as a hug that you give your dad.”