Are classics that important?

My mum had my brothers and I reading classics from an early age.  I was reading Austen, Bronte, Dickens whilst in primary school. I was not an amazing English student but I loved reading and reading classics was all I knew.  I was not allowed to read other novels. So when I was told in my first English class, in high school, we were going to read and analyse a John Steinbeck novel I was thrilled. I had already read Of Mice and Men (written 1937) and I believed that soon we would be reading Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Kafka.  My excitement and enthusiasm were soon deflated when I was given, The Red Pony, a very depressing book, especially for animal lovers.

I now know why I love reading classics. They contain beautifully constructed prose, are filled with information of a world long gone and gives an insight into books and novels that were really a cherished form of art and quite exclusive.

FAST FORWARD 17+ years

I still LOVE reading and as I have stated previously, I have four gorgeous children. I wanted to instill this love of reading, especially classics, but sadly they love every other genre but not classics. They have read one or two but I have found unless I read to them (even my soon to be 15 year old still loves me to read to him) they find it unenjoyable. My children find the prose to wordy, filled with too much description, old colloquialisms and are just “BORING!”.  Modern novels grab the readers attention from the first paragraph, have less adjectives and descriptive paragraphs and are less “wordy”, so I am told by Miss R.

Is this a result of today’s society? The hustle, bustle and fast paced world that we live in? We don’t have time to waste even when reading?

Is it because the other types of media,TV, Computers, DVDs etc, are so engaging and give instantaneous gratification? Classics take a few chapters for one to be engrossed into the story.

Have we, as a society, moved on from these types of books? Has language changed that much?

Are kids today lazier or not as intelligent (if so what has caused this?) and find these types of books too much effort?

My mother thinks it is today’s parents’ fault, and that I am failing as a parent, as we don’t force our children to read the classics. I personally don’t want to force my children to read a book of my choosing.  I do, suggest books I think they may enjoy. I know that they are not dumb so one may skip, flick through a book pretending to read. Even worse they could begin to detest reading if forced to read something that is of no interest to them. So I will never force them to read a classic hoping in time they may choose to read one.

I know my children love reading as much as I do but they enjoy different genres to my favourites.  Which, has led to many interesting and enjoyable dinner table conversations. Which I think is what reading is all about, connecting with others by sharing ideas and thoughts.





Filed under General thoughts, Proficient Readers, Reluctant Reader

4 responses to “Are classics that important?

  1. John Nebauer

    I think that reading classics (and reading in general) was always an activity that a minority of the population did. That it worked for your parents means nothing. It also needed someone to respond to them, which you did.

    The other question is definition. What constitutes a classic? Does it have to have more adjectives? Hemingway would be regarded as a classic, and he was not complimentary about adjectives at all. I would argue that someone like Phillip K Dick is now a classic.

    I guess the question is: how do parents get their kids to love words *and to want to read them*. People have always liked listening to stories. I would probably regard someone listing to a reading of Austen as a positive. It enriches the vocabulary and they still get to hear a different cadence.

    I wonder whether your final sentence is the key thing. How many families even have conversations around the dinner table?


    • Hi John,
      You are so right the older we get the more books are considered “classics”. I think stories being read out to children, watching a DVD of a Jane Austen adaptation all may inspire a child to read that or another Austen. My mother would say classics have stood the test of time and are well written and always grammatically correct. I disagree with that as classics were the popular books of the time and not all were correct. To create a picture in one’s mind is the beauty of books in my opinion so I do like descriptive passages so that I can almost touch, smell and feel that I am there experiencing the moment. I think many modern novels do that, ask the millions of women that read The Shades of Grey!
      My daughter’s English teacher put it succinctly “JUST READ! Read everything and anything as the greater the variety the better.” I agree with him how can a child write a magazine article for a class assessment if they have never read one. Children in my humble opinion need to be exposed to all types of literature.
      Discussions about all things we read makes a more interesting world.


  2. I think one of the reasons kids don’t read classics is they have a hard time relating to them. There are so many great YA books being published now and they can relate to the characters that they are going to gravitate towards those books. I wish there were all these YA books when I was growing up!! There are so many other things that are vying for their attention, video games, tv, Internet, etc. that I am just happy that they are reading.


    • I agree, any reading material is better than nothing. I also love the progress being made in the US to have diversity in novels. This will hopefully create more globally aware adults for the future.
      I found a book that was based on a game my son plays but he was unimpressed and said it would be a sad reflection on the fun he experiences in the game.
      Unsure if the game was based on the book or the other way around but nevertheless he did not buy it.


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