Friday, 30 December 2011
The Reading Experience
I've been reading a lot of books with my grandson over the Christmas period and I can't help noticing how all the genres we are so familiar with in contemporary literature are already there right from the start of the reading experience.
Take those lift-the-flap books that infants are so fond of, with their titles like 'Where's Maisy?' or 'Who Took The Cookie From The Cookie Jar?'. These are so clearly the primitive ancestors of the crime novels that fill the best-seller lists.
There's the same motivation for the reader - the pleasure of watching a mystery unravel, and the same comforting predictability about the conclusion. The hero will always appear from behind the last flap and smilingly wrap up the story.
There are character driven books where the focus is simply on presenting an individual, or a set of characters, to the reader. In one of my grandson's current favourites called 'Let's Say Hello To The Snowy Animals', the reader is introduced to a set of animals who live in cold climates, each of whom has his or her own particular set of signature traits, and then we say goodbye to them again. End of story.
Then there are issues-based books, like the hugely successful Charlie and Lola stories, which focus on the tricky problems that cast their shadow over those early years, like a child's reluctance to try new foods, or to go to sleep, or share toys with other children.
Perhaps there is no real difference between books for children and books for adults. Perhaps there are just books and readers.
For a writer like me this is all very reassuring. Next time I get a bad review I can remind myself that all those sophisticated readers discussing the latest titles in book clubs or on campuses, on blogs or in magazines, are only grown-up babies after all.