The Reluctant Reading Beast Inside
I had the pleasure of visiting the most glorious second-hand book farm the other day which is a rare treat after so long under lockdown. Forget the toilet roll issues, I have been hankering after a book rummage for some time now! Happily, I was not disappointed at Astley Book farm and even on arrival, I knew my rummaging itch would be scratched.
I entered the barns to be met with the most delicious aromas of teacakes, coffee, soup and toasties on my way in (note - this a proper welcome) and I was immediately filled with excitement of seeing rows and shelves crammed with the delights of old books, over doors, around the walls, piles on the floors, on window shelves and on the counter and beyond. They were stuffed everywhere. Now, don't get me wrong, I do love a new book shop where the shiny spines stand unbroken and untouched, and the ink smells fresh and the virgin colours are bright and unbleached by life, but there is something about the dusty old musty old book shops (I blame Bagpuss for that by the way).
Anyway, this post isn't about the lost hours spent meandering down dark corridors (trying to use a social distancing approach was rather difficult) and cocking my head to one side to read the titles so much so, I have whiplash - this is about Young Adult reading.
The children's section of the Book Farm was of course a great interest to me, being a children's writer, and the activity in this room was what inspired me to write this blog. Yes, there were a few children perched around tiny wooden tables, where they flicked through picture books and muddled through titles they were inspired by, but the room was filled with far more adults than children. This may be quite normal as adults are the gatekeepers, are they not? They decide what to buy and they are the ones with the money in their bags, but this room wasn't filled with adults buying books for children. This room was filled with adults, females mainly ages 20-50 who were crammed around the YA shelf (hoorah for face masks!) and they were buying books for themselves.
I listened to the conversations (it was a small room and hard not to eavesdrop) and these ladies were all excited about the titles there, some unknown to them but mostly about authors they were following or had been recommended. It interested me no end as these ladies obviously loved their reading and they just want to...well, read!
We all know that Harry Potter instigated a huge change in children's literature, with a blurring line between middle grade and young adult fiction, a longer read, more adult themes and the accepting knowledge that older women (and some men) were allowed to read these "children's books". There became no stigma attached to reading something that was in fact a book, written for a child to read and suddenly a more "we can read anything" attitude was adopted by the reading world.
I love this. Absolutely love this. I applaud you J.K Rowling for making all genres accessible to everyone, to boost the nation's love for reading and to remove the taboo of an adult reading a child's book. I feel these past years, many of us have been able to pick a book up for no other reason but because we love it. Not because it's a classic (which frighten many of us) or because we feel you ought to, but just because we want to.
I would thoroughly recommend middle grade and YA books if you want a light read, ones that would make you laugh and cry as much as any adult one - so browse some different reading shelves and feed the reluctant reader that sometimes lingers inside you, as even that tired beast needs some occasional escapism.