Schools simply shove piles of classic novels in front of kids to ‘prepare them for higher education’. But forcing someone to read reduces their passion. If you asked a student why they read Shelley’s Frankenstein, they’d probably answer ‘because it was on the syllabus’.
Then they’ll go into a speech about the language, form and structure of the novel as if for the hundredth time. This is what reading has turned into; a chore, a burden. We read to pass an exam or to complete an essay.
Ever wondered how some kids get ‘A’ grade English essays and some don’t? It’s not because they’re geeks, or because they have no lives and stay in night after night. It’s because they are prepared to give up some of their time to read a book that inspires them to write with their own flair and style.
You watch these kids breeze through every essay they’re given, knowing they’re the ones who are going to make it big while you’re stuck in a dead end job persuading a difficult customer to spend that extra £10 on a chrome-edged microwave.
Picking up a novel like ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Chbosky or ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by Salinger can instantly change your whole perception of life, can transform you from a naïve child to an independent, fresh-thinking young adult.
In the rare cases of us actually reading, it tends to be done in a trend. Look at Harry Potter? The pubescent boy on the verge of manhood strives to fight against the evil Lord Voldemort blah blah blah. Each year, without fail, the population queued up at bookshops at 11.59, waiting for the doors to open so that they could collect the latest novel.
The publishers milked the Potter brand so much it became boring. But in a society ruled by consumerism, is it really such a surprise for a bunch of 17-year-olds to go and see the film rather than read the book? Especially when top names ranked ‘sexiest male or female’ have been cast to play one of your favourite characters. Who could say no to watching beautiful thespians on screen?
Many novels have been adapted for the big screen. Some adaptations are great. Some become the most easily forgotten of films. Films provide a short getaway from reality when you just can’t be bothered. Which is great. They don’t require thinking or any form of brain cell activity, they’re just a series of moving pictures, purely for entertainment.
Somehow reading feels more personal. Nobody will ever have the same vision of a character as you. Films show the director’s vision but books are like dreams, they take you places you’ve never been to. You’re not just a spectator looking in on someone else’s life, you become one of the characters taking every twist and tumble with them.
Even if they’re very different from you, there’s a connection, a secret bond. You get scared, you smile, you cry and you laugh. You feel every emotion as though it were reality.
You never want it to end and when it does you feel like you’ve ended a relationship. That is the power of books.