ladyofastolat: (Hear me roar)
According to two separate literacy/reading newsletters I received today, Education Minister Michael Gove has said that all children should have read Great Expectations by the age of 11. Dickens' biographer has lamented that today's children are sadly incapable of carrying out this duty, because they do not possess the necessary attention span, due to being allowed to watch "horrid television programmes."

I have ranted quite a bit on this today, in the expected predictable fashion. So this is me, ranting predictably about it here, too - but I'll spare you the actual content of the rant, since I've said it all before.
ladyofastolat: (Library lady)
(Oh! I can use LJ Scrapbook for the first time in years! It never works at home, but it works just fine at work. This very much supports my conclusion that the LJ login manager I use at home is to blame for everything. Or everything relevant to LJ logins, anyway; I don't think I'll try to blame it for the world economic crisis or the Chile earthquake.)

Anyway, I'll put the behind a cut, since you've all heard me ranting about his before. I just like collecting particularly vexing examples.

That old thing about sexism in children's books )
ladyofastolat: (Library lady)
Dear publishers,

It is possible to have a story for children aged 6 or 7 that is not about fairies. Yes, yes, I know this is a shocking thing for me to say. I know you are sitting here in your pink fluffy towers, with fairy books strewn around you up to your ears. I know you probably speak in hushed tones of that employee who once suggested publishing a story about a boy, and the terrible fate that befell him. However, if you look back into the past, can you not remember that, once upon a time, stories about boys and adventures and spirited heroines and monsters and suchlike actually existed? Can you not remember a time when the "five to eight" section in bookshops and libraries wasn't a sea a pink?

All I can assume is that a fairy queen has taken over your organisations and has sprinkled you with fairy dust so that you cannot envisage anything other than fairies. Band together, I urge you, and overthrow her influence! The reading futures of millions of children depend on you!

Yours,

Me
ladyofastolat: (Library lady)
This is a predictable rant, because I know I've ranted about similar things before. In fact, I can probably leave half the words blank, and you'd all be able to fill them in. (Now, there's an idea for an LJ post…)

On reading for pleasure etc. )

Sexism

Dec. 4th, 2007 05:43 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
When I was in a pre-school today, one of the boys (aged 3) was dressed up as Disney's Snow White, and was wearing fake red nail polish. I noticed it. I kept on noticing it. How unusual, I thought. How odd. I wasn't disturbed by it, or anything, but I definitely noticed it in a way I wouldn't have noticed if a little girl had been wearing the same costume.

I feel quite guilty and hypocritical now. Why on earth shouldn't he role-play as a princess? Good for the pre-school staff in letting him doing it, and not saying "Oh no! That's for girls", and making him dress as a pirate instead. I bet many pre-school staff - and many parents and relatives - would have said that, though. I've often ranted about how unfair society is on men and boys. I know women have had a raw deal over the ages, and I've no objection to women fighting for equality... but equality should go both ways. Society still doesn't really allow men to do "female" things - reading "women's" books, wearing a dress, crying in public etc. There is absolutely nothing intrinsic about a dress that says it's "not male", but (Western) society has decided that it is, and makes judgements about men who want to wear them.

The sad thing is, this little boy, should he continue to want to dress up as a princess, will probably get a rude awakening when he starts "big school", gets teased, gets called "gay", and ends up forced to adapt to rigid and narrow views of what a "proper boy" ought to do.

Books

Feb. 19th, 2007 06:17 pm
ladyofastolat: (Library lady)
I still feel distinctly ill and floppy, but struggled through a day at work, mostly spending it online, ordering books. The publicity for one book started thus: "Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers for ever. [This] is such a book." My initial reaction was to think, "What? Every few decades? More like every day."

Books change lives )

The Rights of the Reader )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Today is the start of the summer holidays. Today, too, is the start of The Reading Mission, this year's summer reading challenge in libraries. "Can you read six books during the summer holidays?" children are challenged. "If you do, you will get a medal."

The books can be any six books the children like. They can be fiction or non-fiction, easy or hard. No-one will complain if children decide to relax over the holidays by reading easy, non-challenging books. Because children can have totally free choice of books (well, as long as they are borrowed from the library, that is) they see the summer reading as fun. All too easily, reading can become a chore at school, and that can put children off. This way, even the least able reader can get a medal for their reading. For some, it is the first time ever that someone has praised them for an academic subject, and it can change their life.

(I bet you can't tell that I've spent the last few weeks writing press releases on this, writing to heads about this, and generally selling it to anyone I meet ;-) )

Anyway, every year, more and more children on the island take part. Every year, more and more of them rush in on the first day of the holidays to join. As a result, I'm spending all of today in the biggest library, helping to join people. Last year, I joined up 150 children on the first day alone. Each child needs several minutes of attention, because there are quite a few goodies to give to them when they sign up, as well as instructions. Central to the summer reading challenge ethos is that children get the chance to talk to library staff about books, and get listened to, so there's a whole lot of talking going on. I expect to return home tonight utterly exhausted, and with no voice.

But it's worth it. Children love it, and it's good for them, too. If anyone knows any children between 4 and 12, please tell them all about it. (If you know children under 4, they might be able to do it, too. I allow them to join in, on the grounds that you can still love books even if you can't read them, and getting a medal "for books" at 3 could make all the difference to a child's attitude to reading when they start school. However, not all library authorities let under 4s join in. Chances are, they'll have the Bookstart Book Crawl for 0-4s, though, which is similar in principle. It gives a lovely certificate every five library visits.)
ladyofastolat: (Default)
"Children should be made to read Classics," reports the BBC website.

This makes me want to throw things at the window and scream. Now, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against classics. I am all in favour of the creation of that shared national heritage and identity, in which people are familiar with all those great works and events that have gone into forming our culture.

However... )

Morris

Jan. 18th, 2006 09:29 pm
ladyofastolat: (Hear me roar)
Vote for Morris Dancing as an English Icon!

I get really cross about the fact that lots of English people will pay good money to watch a touristy folk dance show when on holiday in Spain, or wherever. They come back from holiday to exotic climes talking about all the lovely local tradition they saw. They go on holiday to Ireland and say how wonderful it is that there's this vibrant folk culture on the pubs. I don't mind at all that they do these things. What I do mind is that they do these things, yet still laugh at and deride our own native tradition.

No country in the world takes worse care of their folk tradition that we do. The stupid, idiotic Licencing Act is doing its utmost to wipe out Mummers' Plays and carol singing and folk singing in pubs - and live music of any kind. (And, yes, "they" say that it won't be used this way, but it already has been.) Morris dancing is a "sad" and a joke. Folk singers are bearded chaps with their fingers in their ears, droning tuneless nonsense.

And then there are all those many many films and TV programmes that want a vaguely folky bit of background music to a traditional English scene, and use Irish music... I've argued with several customers in the library who have declared that "England doesn't have any folk songs"...

I can't remember exactly what Jeremy Paxman said in his book about the English, but it was something like, "England doesn't have any tradition of folk dance. Well, except for Morris dancing, which is sad and pathetic so I won't count it."

When we danced at a folk dance festival in Germany, we were the star of the show. All the other European countries were dancing fairly similar dances - mostly mixed couples doing circle dances. We thumped each other with sticks! We had bells on our feet! They came in their dozens to give us schnappes and tell us how wonderful we were. They valued us.

Why can't the English?

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