Monday, February 27, 2012

Freedom to Read

by Jemi Fraser

February 26 - March 3, 2012 is Freedom to Read week in Canada. This is similar to Banned Book week in the US and probably similar weeks all over the world. I feel strongly about allowing people the freedom to choose what to read. My students read independently each and every day. They choose their own books from my rather enormous classroom library or bring in their own books. They always choose well. I talked more about this here.

I was one of those lucky kids. My parents were fabulous. They encouraged us to do our best no matter what the task and encouraged us to make our own choices from an early age. Those choices included reading material.

I'd devoured the kids' section in the library before I finished grade 6. Sadly, YA didn't exist back then. I ventured into the adult section. Was I too young? Did I read things that were above my head and inappropriate? I don't think so. I learned things, but nothing overwhelmed me or made me feel uncomfortable.

One of those adult series I read was James Herriot's Vet series (also known as All Creatures Great and Small). If you haven't read them, Herriot was a English veterinarian who visited local farms and dealt with, well, just about everything. Herriot's books are full of vet stories, humour, relationships and life. Adult life. I learned a lot. :)

I also started reading Agatha Christie's books in grade 6. And Tolkien's. I read about death. Evil. Murder. Greed. Lust. Corruption.

Along with honour. Truth. Loyalty. Logic. Love. Perseverance. Integrity. Teamwork. Courage.

I learned good defeats evil and that love, all kinds of love, is powerful.

So, yeah, I support Freedom to Read.

What was the first adult book you read? Did it affect you? Positively or negatively?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of romantic mysteries. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

33 comments:

Lynda R Young said...

The first ones were Lord of the Rings and To Kill a Mockingbird (read them at the same time).

I agree we should have the freedom to read. Some books will generate more discussion than others, but that discussion is so important.

JeffO said...

I don't think it's the first adult book I read, because I was a pretty advanced reader back in the day, but the one I most remember is King's 'Salem's Lot', which I read when I was around 11. It definitely had a big impact on me.

My parents were very generous in what they allowed us to read, and my wife and I have tried our best to be as open as they were. I think we've only nixed one or two books all time for our girls, and it was after careful consideration.

Old Kitty said...

My first proper adult book I read at 13 was a Jackie Collins! My mum was reading it and so I sneaked a peak! I really enjoyed it - didn't really understand the naughty bits (yes at 13 I was such an innocent!!LOL!) but it made me want to read more - not just hers but books like Lace and Mills & Boon! Oh and my mum didn't mind - she had to grab it back from me cos she wanted to finish it first!

Take care
x

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sounds like an awesome week. We didn't have YA books either. Not sure which my first adult book was but I'm thinking James Mitchner with his very good but long books.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lynda - I agree - it's all about the discussion! I've read The Giver to so many classes because of the great discussions!

Jeff - and that's the key! Thinking and talking about books is always worthwhile. I think King has been an eye opener for a lot of kids!

Old Kitty - love it! I think a lot of girls learned a lot about the adult world through their mom's romance novels!! :)

Natalie - I've not read Michener I don't think. I'll have to give him a shot one of these days!

Laura Marcella said...

The first adult book I read was probably To Kill a Mockingbird. It's still one of my favorite books!

The U.S. and Canada should get on board and celebrate both Banned Books Week and Freedom to Read Week! I think this cause could use two different weeks out of the year dedicated to it. :)

Happy Reading, Jemi!!

Jean Oram said...

I think the first "adult" book I read was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Went so far over my head, but I liked it! (I was in elementary at the time.)

I also could have used a huge dose of YA. I actually stopped reading for awhile in high school because our teachers didn't bring us to the library and there really wasn't much there for me anyway. Thank goodness YA is here now!

Kristi said...

One of the first adult books I remember reading was Stephen King's Misery, and I'm pretty sure I remember some questionable things in there for my elementary school age, but I LOVED it.

The important thing to me then, and now, is that a book sweeps me away and I get lost in the pages...being able to do that, and learn something in the process--about life, love, death, etc...-- that's the magic. :)

Anything that keeps a kid reading (in my mind) is a good thing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

No young adult when I was a kid either so I ventured into the adult science fiction and fantasy section. Can't remember which was first, but I read Terry Brooks' Shannara series and Tolkien.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't my first adult book, but it left a big impact. Picked it from my school summer reading list when I was 14, (for the 10th grade) circa 1965. A very progressive English teacher, thank God. Uhuru by Robt Ruark. (How Africans (black & white) adjust to the new freedom in post-colonial Kenyan) It was gutsy and terribly graphic at times. Opened my eyes to the fact that life is complex and there is always another perspective. Couldn't put it down.

Jemi Fraser said...

Laura - I agree! The more attention we give to the cause, the more people will be talking about books! And I love To Kill a Mockingbird too :)

Jean - I love having YA to choose from now. Not only do I enjoy it myself, but I can steer my MG aged students towards it when they're past reading MG books!

Kristi - I totally agree! I think King has encouraged so many kids to read over the years. He's created such incredible stories!

Alex - I loved the Shannara books as well, but I didn't come across them until I was quite a bit older. My parents didn't know anything about sci-fi and fantasy!

Anonymous - that sounds like a great one! I remember best the books that impacted me and the way I looked at the world best. I was aa naive kid, so I had a lot to learn!

Jo said...

I think my very first adult book was a set of hardback Victoria Holt books that my mom had. I can't remember what the titles were... but they were purple with white binding around the spine. :) No, one of them was "Menfreya in the Morning," I think. I don't remember a whole lot about them now, but I do remember being disappointed there was not a SINGLE boy in my school named Maximillian.

I read the Herriott books at a young age, too... and I loved them!! I often go back to them and reread them for that nostalgic feeling.

Jo
In Which We Start Anew

Jemi Fraser said...

Jo - love it! Herriott's stories are so good for any age. And I bet if there had been a Maximillian at your school, a lot of the girls would have been following him around!! :)

Alleged Author said...

My dad also let us (my sister and I) choose our reading material. Love parents who allow this!

Jemi Fraser said...

Alleged - me too! I think it's important for kids to have choice in the matter. Nothing wrong with a good discussion about tough books! :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I can't remember the first adult book I read.

When I was in elementary and early middle school, I read what was on my parents' shelf. I didn't finish most of it, but I did finish a few things, and they were grownup books. I'm glad I was allowed to explore, because those were the seeds for reading and writing.

Mason Canyon said...

No YA when I was growing up either. I can't remember what my first adult book was but I do remember James Herriot's series and loved it. My parents, especially my mom, always encouraged reading. A book was my first gift as a baby.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - I agree - having the ability to choose and decide really encourages kids to be readers. I find that allowing kids to abandon books is important too - it's okay for everyone not to like the same thing!

Jemi Fraser said...

Mason - Oops - we cross posted! I love that your first gift was a book - that was an accurate portent! My parents were great about giving me time and space to read too. I spent so many happy hours in those books!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I hope teens know how lucky they are to have so many choices in reading material. I also read from the adult section when I was not quite in my teens.
Hoorah for 'Freedom to Read'

Stephen Tremp said...

To Kill A Mocking bird was the first adult book I read. I think I was in the sixth grade. Maybe that's a YA book. Anyway, it was grown up for me at the time. Love that story!

Uh oh, I see your word verification is on. I'm on a mission to rid the world of this evil and unnecessary nuisance. Please take a moment to visit my blog and click the How To Turn Off Your Word Verification tab.

Jemi Fraser said...

Susan - I agree. In my Grade 6 classroom this year, I have at least 8 students who read YA exclusively. If that category didn't exist, they'd only have the adult books - which are great, but they're loving the YA :)

Stephen - I love To Kill a Mockingbird - but I didn't read it until I was an adult. Such a great book. I'm with you on the word verification - it drives me nuts! :)

Christopher Hudson said...

Geez, I can't remember my first adult book ... but I'm pretty much bet it was 'banned in Boston'.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Yay, Jemi!!! Awesome post, and of course, I absolutely agree with you. :D

Jemi Fraser said...

Christopher - I think it's tough to remember sometimes because we just thought of it as another book. I don't remember it being a big deal to go into the adult section of the library.

Lisa - thank you! And it's amazing how often that thing happens between us! (no real surprise at all :))

Theresa Milstein said...

My story was much like yours. At some point, I had finished the best of the children's section. Our YA was tiny, so I soon read adult. My parents never told me not to read a book. And I think I've come out fine. Probably.

Jemi Fraser said...

Theresa - I'm in the same boat - and I think we've turned out pretty well (for the most part!) :) Encouraging a strong reader to read requires risk. I'm glad my parents took those risks!

Sarah Ahiers said...

I'm pretty sure the first adult book i read was Dean Koontz's Door to December. I was in middle school and home sick and my mom bought it for me since i had exhausted Christopher Pike, since he was really the only YA author at the time.
I never looked back after that

Jemi Fraser said...

Sarah - My daughter really loved Christopher Pike books when she was younger too (I'm too much of a wimp!!). I know Dean Koontz is such a popular author with teens and adults as well!

Leslie Rose said...

The Three Musketeers was my first adult novel in 6th grade. I continued to devour Dumas. I just learned that Little Women and Huckleberry Finn are considered the first YA novels. Interesting.

Jemi Fraser said...

Leslie - 3 Musketeers is a great one! I'd forgotten about that one - and the Count of MC too. Loved those! I wonder how Alcott & Twain would feel about that designation. I loved both of those too :)

Kela McClelland said...

I don't remember the first adult book I read, but I know there were some Stephen King books among the first. By the time I hit 3rd grade the only books that were challenging enough to hold my interest were adult books. My mom started teaching me to read as soon as I could talk. She never cared what I chose, as long as I was reading. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Kela - Stephen King is such a popular author with teens and sometimes younger kids! I love your mom's attitude. It's so important to give kids a sense of ownership with the books they choose to read!