CLASSICS: Why and how we can encourage children to read them

by Fiza Pathan

Verdict: In the book CLASSICS, author Fiza Pathan makes a compelling case for novels that have stood the test of time and remain valued parts of the English-language canon.

IR Rating

 
 

3.5

IR Rating

Fiza Pathan discovered classical novels early, thanks to the efforts of a kindly uncle and a patient librarian. She discovered that not only was she enthralled by novels like Dracula and A Tale of Two Cities, but that they actually improved her ability to write, helped her excel in school, and gave her emotional resources to fall back on during difficult times. In her career as a teacher, she finds that her students also benefit similarly from reading the classics, and offers encouragement and advice to help teachers, parents and students find and read these works.

The author’s observations come directly from personal experience, and she cites the specific examples of specific children to support her arguments. She writes with passionate and fervent enthusiasm that cannot help but be catching, and no doubt she will inspire many a reader to go back to old favorites long neglected. Her advice on luring children to read rather than pressuring or forcing them to do so is sound and intelligent. Her definition of “classics” is not specified but is made reasonably clear by context, and it includes a wide range of books, in a diverse range of genres, fiction and nonfiction– something to appeal to any taste.

However, Pathan includes few if any authors who are not white and European/American – given her own background, the total lack of Indian classics, for example, is frankly startling, especially since Kipling is included. She does seem to make a rather sharp and I think unmerited separation between “classics” and “modern fiction,” as if the classical canon is not a moving target. Dickens, Conan Doyle, and Twain wrote popular fiction for the masses for profit, just as J. K. Rowling does today, and there are no doubt modern authors (Rowling perhaps among them) whose works will someday be considered “classics” as they survive the test of time. This division is particularly unfair in science fiction, as she ignores entirely  that genre’s generally-acknowledged “Golden Age” – classic authors like Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, etc. – and recommends only Victorian authors like Wells, Shelley, and Verne.  Additionally, her style of writing can be a bit disjointed, scattering impromptu quizzes, personal reminiscences, digressions, and descriptions of particular students throughout the book.

In her book CLASSICS: Why and how we can encourage children to read them, author Fiza Pathan makes a compelling case for novels that have stood the test of time and remain valued parts of the English-language canon.

~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader

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