Friday, 21 March 2014

The Right and Wrong of Reading

EDGE Author Sara Grant Snubs the Literary Snob

Sara's bookcase
I’ve seen more than one writer sniff at series such as Rainbow Magic and Beast Quest. I’ve heard literary snobs heckle Harry Potter and Twilight. But these books get kids reading. (And, if you’re a writer, these success stories fund publishers and allow them to publish debut authors, take risks on genre-busting titles and support literary masterpieces.)

I applaud any story that helps young readers discover the magic of books. So what if the stories aren’t perfect? (As if there is such a thing.) If kids develop a habit of reading, then maybe their tastes will evolve. I started reading teen romance novels and ended up loving To Kill A Mocking Bird. Even now commercial and literary fiction mix easily on my bookshelves.

Sara's parents
Growing up I had great role models. My mom was a kindergarten teacher and read to my sister and me from day one. My dad always had a passion for books and found no greater joy than reading. But school almost drained any interest I had in books. I was a slow reader, and I’m pretty sure my school’s reading list was devised by searching for the most archaic, boring books ever created. And then there was the insistence that every person find the same themes and messages in a book. Reading became more like solving a math problem with one right and many wrong answers.

The beauty of books is that you can find and lose yourself in stories. Books are personal. No two people read exactly the same story. I’m amazed and delighted by what readers find in my stories – some things I intended and others that my book inspired in their psyches. Books should serve as sparks for readers’ imaginations.

Lovely Children's Laureate
Malorie Blackman
I was lucky enough to hear Malorie Blackman give her first comments as Children’s Laureate. She recalled that as a young reader she had a teacher snatch a comic book out of her hands and tell her that wasn’t proper reading. One of Malorie’s goals as Children’s Laureate is to ‘get more children reading more’. Not more children reading what others deem proper, but more children reading – full stop. To that I say, HURRAH!

I’ve met some amazing librarians, booksellers and teachers who serve as literary matchmakers connecting kids with books to excite them– be it Gossip Girl or War and Peace. They get to know the reader and then find books that tap into their interests and reading levels. I’ve been at schools that have programs like ‘drop everything and read’. They make no judgement on content, only encourage the act of reading.
I abhor censorship of any kind – especially those literary bullies who try to make readers feel bad for enjoying an entertaining story. I find something to admire and inspire in every book I read. I don’t believe in right/wrong or good/bad when it comes to reading. I believe in the joy that comes from finding books that make you laugh, cry, think and feel less alone.

About Sara Grant

Sara writes books for both children and teens. Dark Parties, her first young adult novel, won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Europe. Her second novel for teens – Half Lives – is a story told in two voices from a pre- and post-apocalyptic time. She also writes a funny magical series for young readers – Magic Trix. Find out more about Sara at or follow her@AuthorSaraGrant.


  1. I totally agree. I have been running workshops for 20 years and I always make it clear that I am totally non-judgemental about what people read or write. Its so personal and the most important thing is to encourage reading and in those who want to write - writing. Great post Sara!

  2. Great post! I absolutely echo your thoughts as a former librarian, now high school English teacher. We are constantly reading YA material and punctuate that reading with classic literature. My students even start to make connections between readings like "Romeo and Juliet" and The Fault in Our Stars. Yay!

  3. Well said, Sara! Reading for pleasure is a wonderful thing and we shouldn't be snobby about what anyone chooses.

  4. Amen, Sara. Beast Quest got my son going. Now he's into Patrick Ness.