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Children’s reading

August 12, 2011

In an editorial to the 2007 Children’s Literature Association Quarterly (pp83-85), Richard Flynn writes that the articles in that issue “offer important challenges to conventional assumptions about child readers.”

It is an interesting phrase and one he pursues: “All too often,” he writes, “in my children’s literature classes I am confronted with the ‘common-sense’ tendency of my students to assume that there is some direct and uncomplicated correspondence between what is represented in a text and the behavior of the young people reading the texts.  This often surfaces in comments that assume that the primary function of characters in children’s fiction is to serve as ‘role models’ for the actual children reading the work.” (emphases mine, p83)

He goes on to discuss ways in which these assumptions are challenged by the texts considered in this issue (L.M. Montgomery, Lewis Carroll, novels about self-injurious behaviour, etc.), by insisting on “the reader’s part in remaking the narrative” (p83), going so far as to challenge “the passive and largely uncritical relationship with texts that many adults assume is typical of child readers.” (p83)  

Flynn also writes: “I remind myself that reading is a powerful emotional and intellectual activity and – role models aside – both child and adult readers do test various real-life roles, do engage in critical and imaginative examination of themselves, when they lose themselves in books.” (p83)

Ref: Richard Flynn (2007) ‘Children’s Reading and ‘Potential Power’ Children’s Literature Association Quarterly; 83-85


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