Click and Read

Did you have an imagination when you were a kid? Then you need to read this.

It’s from Bob Wallace, who gave up on reading because the schools leached all the wonder out of it. Then, when he was 11, he found his first John Carter, Warlord of Mars book.

Anybody else in here remember that day? When you opened a crappy old book, one with words and no pictures or nothin’, and magic happened?

Bob says that we’re not doing the kids any favor by sanitizing their reading material.

“If stories for kids are boring, kids certainly aren’t going to want to read. And if they don’t read, then they can’t take much advantage of all the knowledge available in literature. That’s saying bye-bye to all the accumulated wisdom of the human race.”

Go read his post. It’s not Burroughs, but there’s still a little magic in there.

(Big hat tip to Trajectory at The Beagle Express, who’s another fellow who remembers.)

13 thoughts on “Click and Read”

  1. I note that many of the highly popular children’s books and movies are often rather dark and very un-PC.

    The Lion King was huge and it is almost Shakespearian in its tragedy.

    Harry Potter begins with the murder of his parents and deals with themes of racism and Fascism.

    and off course we have Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” which is relentlessly Gothic and morbid.

    Great stories contain great drama and great drama occurs when ugly, dark people do ugly, dark things. The rules for great story telling don’t suddenly change just because the target audience is children.

  2. Once upon a time, it was considered the duty of parents to help their children grow up and become responsible citizens.

    Now, it seems many people consider it their duty to stop them from growing up at all, or at least slow down the process as much as humanly possible.

    Why else have we been subjected to platitudes such as the importance of protecting their “innocence”? Shouldn’t we be after helping them get rid of their “innocence” (i.e., their ignorance) as quickly as we can without scaring them straight into the nuthouse?

    I guess it started with that nonsense about “noble savages” – that seems to have turned into the idea that as long as we can keep the little darlings from knowing any “bad” things, they’ll never be tempted to do bad things. How this idea survived millions of direct personal observations of actual three year olds, who are quite capable of being vicious little *&#*&$*s without knowing much of anything, is a mystery for the ages…

  3. My experience has been somewhat different. Parents often expect their children to be their parents – cushioning the shocks of, say, divorce. Those children do not, of course, become very effective parents to either their parents nor their own children because they have no models of responsible behavior.

    I do not see large numbers of children who have been kept “innocent.” On the other hand, I agree, bloody fairy tales feed something in children. Bettelheim has always seemed to me quite right. However, the strength of those fairy tales is that the bloodiness arises from an ordered vision of the world. Children like rules and justice – they like the feeling that civilization and fate order the world. This may be a fantasy – that may be arguable. Nonetheless, certain maturity is required to deal with the cynicism, despair and meaninglessness of some modern culture.

    Natural adolescent cynicism is a stage; to do its work, it need not be encouraged nor started too early. And sex is a big deal. I don’t think a child is helped by thinking cynically about sex at the stages when sex is becoming interesting.

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  5. Summer of 1975, between 6th and 7th Grade, a miserable time, except that at some point I was poking around the rack of paberbacks at the public library and I picked up two books that looked kinda cool. They were Burroughs “A Princess of Mars” and Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”. I read 1/3 of PofM walking home. I finished it that afternoon and then I read Heinlein until late at night and finished it too. To say I was totally blown away is an understatement. I can remember that day like it just happened. It was a hinge moment in my life. I went back to the library the next day literally nauseous with dread that the rest of the Mars books would not be there — they were — and I read Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars within the next day or so, and then all the rest … .

    BTW, Burroughs’ books are not “crappy” — he is a very vigorous story-teller, with a chivalrous moral code and a good ability to convey an alien world.

  6. “BTW, Burroughs’ books are not “crappy” — he is a very vigorous story-teller, with a chivalrous moral code and a good ability to convey an alien world.”

    Sure, and you won’t find me argueing with you about that. What I was trying to convey was the before/after attitude. You know, something like “It’s just some book, like those I have to read in school.” before you open it up and read the story inside.


  7. I just had this conversation with a friend recently, strangely enough.

    I belong to the generation that learned to read using Dick and Jane readers. I didn’t mind. Our teacher would break us into groups of about 6-8 and we’d read out loud to each other, one after the other, going around the circle. I don’t remember being particularly excited by the stories, but I understood the method. I could see the words and sentence structures getting more complex as we went along. I saw it as a teaching tool, not entertainment. But I enjoyed it anyway.

    We also had phonics classes, which were immensely helpful to me. We were to taught the different sounds made with different combinations of letters, how to break words down by syllable, taught contractions, compound words, all sorts of useful stuff. I can’t believe phonics ever fell out of favor as a teaching tool.

    I remember loving mystery stories as a child. I read The Bobbsey Twins stories first, then discovered The Hardy Boys. My brother and I shared a collection of ten or so Hardy Boys books my mother had gotten second hand for 50 cents each (hardbound). They were all interesting, but all things being equal, I’d rather have been playing baseball or off on an adventure on my bike with my friends ‘exploring’ far from home.

    Reading evolved for me. I remember my father giving me a book for Christmas that was much different from other things I’d read. It was much more adult themed. Something to do with a yacht being hijacked by criminals, a failed rescue attempt, exotic locations, etc. I loved it and read it in a few days. He immediately started feeding me books from his own collection. I was probably about 10 or 11. He gave me The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra, The Andromeda Strain, that sort of thing.

    Soon, I discovered Jules Verne (I devoured those books) and Isaac Asimov and Tolkien, and books started consuming more and more of my time, especially at night before sleep. I still have that habit all these years later.

  8. My parents taught me to read, from real books, before kindergarden; I still shudder when I recall the horror that was, “See Spot Run”. And miss all those obscure “Juvenile SF” novels that I read back in the ’60s. I swear, the science in them was better than in most of the SF being published today!

  9. I remember finding the 1st & 2nd books in the Barsoom series, and the long search for the others by Burroughs. Those were the dark days of yore with no internet, no Amazon!

    I loved reading from the first, so much so that in the 4th grade I was restricted from the school library for “reading too much.” I was only allowed to check out 2 books per week. It didn’t bother me, by then I had already read most of the books there already.

    School just teaches you how to read. Making it something you want to do isn’t part of it. You have to find that for yourself.

  10. One of the most moving arguments for reading is by Frederick Douglass, who describes the way reading others voice thoughts in their words connected him across the centuries and the continents to others – and to the idea of being free. It is a moving argument for western civilization and the western canon – and written by a man who suffered under American slavery.

    Reading was always an escape. And I think I loved it most because of both characters that enlarged my understanding of, really, my acquaintance, of people and because of plot. I love plot, that chaos that is resolved, that crisis that is reached and then order restored. Mysteries are absorbing but they are also reassuring; when my world is especially chaotic, I love them most.

  11. Thanks for the plug, but the article about E.R. Burroughs and imagination, isn’t by Lew Rockwell. It’s by Bob Wallace, who is me. I write a lot for Lew’s site, but that particular article was from The Price of Liberty.

  12. Harry Potter is great, though the work of reading it in my second language (Slovak) has had me avoiding #5 (my “tenth”). Like my 9 year old, who read HP 1-3 in his mother tongue Slovak, but I said he must read #4 in English — he’s now instead playing a Czech Dragon Quest kind of D&D game.
    Which his mother and I decided to forbid from playing — too promoting of evil/ fighting/ etc., but also too absorbing into the virtual world. He needs more other books, and other activities, first.

    I remember the Indian Mummy Mystery; and something like the Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. But yes, 6th grade, the Hobbit. Then the LOTR, and Burroughs (LOTS of Tarzan; I liked jungle better than Mars), and Robert E Howard (Conan) and EE “Doc” Smith (Lensman); as well as wonderful Heinlein and Asimov.
    When the limits of mechanical science were less well known; and the sustainable importance not only of getting to Moon, but of making a profit in doing so. (The best measure of the sustainability of organizations is profit. And it’s objective.)

    Reading gives such a great, limited virtual world. Yes, passive; but rich. Active in imagination.

    No sanitazation needed, please.

  13. The Lensman series. Oh my. I must write s lengthy post about the glories of Doc Smith: Nadreck of Palain reducing the Fortress Planet of Onlo using only psychology; Worsel the Velantian, with his snake-like body, multiple eyes (on stalks), wings, teeth, claws — and super-human mental powers; “Tiny” van Buskirk and his space axe; Gharlane of Eddore, deathless enemy of all that is good in our entire space-time continuum … .

    Good stuff. I ate those books with both hands.

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