If how we perceive reality relies on the language we use, then the books we read matter. A lot. Susie and Dr Steve talk to university professor (and good egg) Beth Driscoll. Is Fifty Shades of Grey better than Jane Austen - better to read, better for you, better in general? Does reading foster empathy and help us relate or is it 'just' entertainment? And is it a good thing that cheap kids' books are for sale in discount department stores? Take a break from your Christmas reading with this episode of the Bloom Podcast.
Dr Steve 0:04
Hi, Steve. Hi, Susie.
Susie BW 0:06
Steve, have you heard of the Sapir Whorf hypothesis?
I have, you have a degree in linguistics, so you'd be a lot more up on it than I am. But I it's the isn't it this concept that the way that we experience the world is kind of through our language, is that right?
I do have a degree in linguistics, but it was quite some time ago. So my understanding is that it's that the language that we speak, influences, how we see the world, how we interact with it influences our reality. So it's not just language, but it's the specific language. And so if that language has terms has, if there is language for something, it helps us to, to see it and to understand it better,
to 16 words for snow and all of that sort of thing.
Yes, exactly. And schadenfreude, I think, is probably the easiest example of that. So if a language has a word for something, I mean, in English, we don't have a native word for, for schadenfreude. So it's hard to talk about it without having the words for it. And if that if the words exist, that it helps us to think in that way,
I remember that reading that there are different concepts around the world that just don't translate at all that the way that, I think one of the examples is the way that we experience grief, feels universal to us. You know, if you if I said I was grieving the death of someone close to me, you would have some idea of what that might be like, it might have different characteristics, but they would be be unlikely to be very surprised if I then went on to describe it. Whereas different cultures around the world seem to experience that those sorts of things very, very differently, and have different concepts for it. The whole idea of languages being if you like the filter, would that be fair, the Sapir Whorf hypothesis that is kind of a filter, the way that we experience the world, that it can be different depending on the language that we I mean, literally the language, you know, that if you're using a language with masculine and feminine pronouns, that I gather, there has been research done on that, that shows that you actually that changes the way that you think about gender?
Well, that makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, language is so fundamental to the way our brains operate.
So a good question might be that if you took that idea on board, then you'd want to be careful about what you are pouring in, wouldn't you, you know, the kind of language that you're absorbing, or the concepts that you're absorbing, or the material that you're absorbing is likely to have an influence on you.
Unknown Speaker 2:38
And that's a very popular theory, isn't it, that what we do, what we read what we watch, there are different qualities in the the cultural experiences we have, in the books and the TV, some are better than others, right?
Susie BW 2:50
I once had a car crash and had to sit for a couple of hours, someone invited me and very kindly. And there was nothing else to read, apart from the newspapers that this gentleman bought, which happened to be the daily sport, which I don't know if it's still going is a newspaper in name only really, it's, it's kind of softcore porn, and I was taken aback by the thought that this might be someone's major diet, and what that would do to you.
I think softcore porn is less likely to come in paper format these days.
Dr Steve 3:23
This was a while ago. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 3:25
But that certainly, I mean, it's why there's a big push at the moment for diversity and media. There's a lot of thinking around there. So my degree you mentioned my degree, which was was in literature and linguistics. And really fundamentally, linguistics is around describing language and literature is around analysis, critical analysis of language and is really much more judgmental, as an academic study, in terms of what's good, and what's bad, and what we should all be doing. Maybe not what we should be doing. But what literature is part of the canon and what's worthy and what is not worthy.
Susie BW 4:04
Well, I don't know if it was still the case when you were going through uni, Susie, but certainly when I was going through the notion of the canon, the idea that there is great literature, and that that's what we should be studying, that was still very, very strong and powerful
times are a changing. I feel like we're too old people. Now. First, we're talking about teenagers. And now we're on the literary canon.
Dr Steve 4:26
But was it changing when you went through
Unknown Speaker 4:28
To some degree? I think it wasn't all dead white men, but a lot of it was a lot of it was, but I think as well as, as well as academic study, it's pretty common to recognize for people to identify that that some books are better than others.
Susie BW 4:44
Yes. And you have to ask, what does that mean better?
Yeah, better, better to read bit more enjoyable, better for you better for us. Yeah. Make make you help make you a better person.
Yes, kind of instinctively. Maybe this is just a reflection of class or something or or virus. Education. But that feels right to me that, as we've been saying before, if the way that we experience the world is through language, if that is really important, then the kind of stuff that we're absorbing matters a great deal. And if you're reading, then there are books that give you more than others. But then, you know, that then takes us right back to the to the canon, doesn't it? There are great books, and there are other books, which is a deeply unfashionable idea. Now I gather.
Unknown Speaker 5:30
Yeah, I'm thinking about kids books, in particular, I mean, in the little unformed minds and what we choose to read to them and which books we choose to buy for them.
Susie BW 5:39
Yes, I'm a little bit unsure about the extent to which those books really matter that whether it's reading versus not reading, rather than the particular reading, whether we need to be going through the library and making sure that all of the books are politically correct for our little ones, otherwise, we might contaminate their minds. I suspect they're a little bit more robust than that.
Political correctness is a whole other topic, isn't it? I will tell you, I was rereading some Harry Potter novels and everyone loves Harry Potter.
Not anymore. Not allowed. Not allowed to love them anymore. They've ruined your childhood. JK Rowling.
Yeah, forgot, forgot about that. Yep, whoops, my bad. And I found I think it was Harry Potter, it might have been three, number three, or four. And I had an early edition, not a first edition, but nearly edition. And she was describing one of the one of the bad guys because you know, it's Harry Potter, it's always pretty clear what usually pretty clear, who's a bad guy and who's not. And this person was, I think she was a witch or she was smelly, and she was decent. She was there. And she had a cleft lip that that scarred her face. And I think I've mentioned on this podcast before that my son has a cleft lip. And that is something I really dislike is the association that or facial scar is equal to a bad person or an evil person. And you can see why I would have a problem with that. And why many right thinking people would have a problem with that. So I wrote a snooty letter to the publisher. And they they sent me back an apology and said that it had actually been caught, because I had an older book. So it had it had already been caught and cleaned up in further editions.
I did not know that
they sent me an updated version as well. So that had been that have been taken out. So when we talk about political correctness, I mean, stepping aside from JK Rowling controversies, that is political correctness, and is that a bad thing? I think that's a good thing. I don't I don't want my son picking up a book and reading or any kid really, whether they have that facial difference themselves or not. I don't want them picking up a book and seeing that association that that scars equals equals bad person.
No, of course you wouldn't.
Of course you wouldn't. It's quite common. By the way in popular culture, it was even now There was a recent I think it was a lone ranger film, where exactly the same thing and pretty sure Lion King as well, I should probably go and check all these things before I say them. So take all that with. Take that with a pinch of salt. don't sue me. But yeah, I became a bit of a vigilante on watching out for this, because it's pretty hard to have difference of any kind. And it's harder. If you are getting from the the cultural references around you if you're getting it underlined that that difference is a bad thing.
Yes, yes, quite rightly. I wonder though, how much we have to protect our children. That was a very good example that you just gave there. But in more general terms, do we protect them from anything that might upset them or make them sad, or do books to books and the other things that children consume helped to prepare them in a way for life, which is not where they're going to be wrapped in cotton wool.
The other example I'll give you at this point is probably in adolescence, and I read a lot of Edid Blyton as a child, you know, my mother's English and all that. And the gender roles are so shocking in that if you go back, I mean, the Famous Five, really, if you are going to be a girl, you're either making the sandwiches or you're pretending to be a boy. And that way you can have some fun. And that those are the two choices for a girl. So sometimes, yes, I think kids should be protected from there. It's interesting isn't when you go back and read these things that you loved as a kid and you go Whoa, was that there the whole time? So I'm probably I think I'm more than you on the side of Yes, we should curate the stuff we give our kids and not because they're sensitive little flowers, but because I want my kids to read books that good for them. I'm not sure about that. books that books that inspire them books and entertain them. But certainly books that don't depress them and make them think that oh god I'm a girl I'm just going to be trapped making sandwiches instead of having adventures forever.
Somehow I doubt that all the other messages that your daughter has been getting from you Susie I doubt that they would all be snuffed out by An unfortunate reference in a book that you read to her or she read?
Well, I went through a phase of buying her very worthwhile books. She's got a whole shelf full of books about girl power and books about sex ed and dyslexia is by superpower and friendship. Why it's good. So she's she started to give me a bit of a side eye when she was unwrapping the presence. So I kind of I've dialed that down now. But yes, I obviously do believe in books as as devices for for improvement and, and cultural values.
I think the Early Learning Centers are one of the biggest illusions, I gather that it's a very local and recent idea that we have to teach our children that in most cultures around the world, and certainly over over time, the thought was that there was no point in teaching them because they would they couldn't learn. So children don't learn because they are taught they learn because they absorb because they are, if you like they arrive pre programmed to be like little sponges and to absorb things. Maybe that's a subject for another day,
we should I bring in a guest now. And I've got two ideas. One is to talk more about political correctness and specifically language. And the other is to talk more about books and reading and is reading good for you? And does it depend on what kind of book you read? Which which direction would you like to go in?
Well, I want to talk to someone who's interesting and knows stuff. So who have you got?
Let's try our friend Beth, who is both an academic so she knows stuff. She does research and is a lovely person.
She certainly is. And I'll try hard to maintain the pretense that I didn't know all along who we were getting.
Yeah. But you know what, hold that thought about political correctness. That might be another another herbicide.
Yes. I'll make a note.
Welcome Beth, to the bloom podcast. Hi,
Dr Beth 12:06
thanks for having me.
Susie BW 12:07
Thank you for joining us, Beth.
We're talking about reading. Why do we read?
Dr Beth 12:13
It is a broad question. But for me, I guess it's the million dollar question. So I teach in a publishing program, and I researched books and publishing and reading and understanding why people read what they get out of it is really at the heart of everything I do. That's really the answer to the question of why does all of this matter. And we know that reading does matter to people, there's quite a lot of research now that shows that reading lowers stress for people, also that it can foster empathy, and help people relate, I guess, to others in society. So it has all of these positive effects. But what does it all come down to in terms of why are people driven to read books? What's the intrinsic motivation? That's something that I'm really interested in. And I'm working on a bit of a theory about why it might be fair to share. Thanks for asking.
When you ask people why they read, which I do, in many of my research projects, you get a lot of different answers. People sometimes read for escape, they read for entertainment, to have a laugh, or to learn something new. Or maybe they read for connection to feel less alone. There was a recent study in Denmark of people reading in lockdown. And a lot of the most popular books that people nominated were books about whatever dystopian societies post Apocalypse, or about being trapped in small environments with young children, apparently a lot of people related to that. So those are the different reasons people nominate. But I think what it comes down to at the core is that when we breed, we have a special quality of attention that we bring to the book. And we almost enter a kind of mental state where you can focus where you go outside of your everyday routines just for a little while. And there's a kind of an interior landscape that you can enter that helps you process things, imagine things. And then he can return from that, I guess with tools that enrich your life or that help you with your life in a different way.
Susie BW 14:07
It's not exclusive to reading, is it only reading that can do that?
Dr Beth 14:10
No, not at all. I think it's it's something that happens with culture. And again, during lockdown. You know, we've seen a surge in people watching streaming services or watching musicals through YouTube, or all sorts of different ways in which culture is mattering to people. I think reading does have a few particular characteristics that mean it works in a slightly different way to those other cultural formats. So for example, reading in long form requires a kind of focus that is very intentional, you need to decide to open a book and start reading and you need a certain kind of persistence to keep going with it. It's not quite as stimulating to the senses as some other cultural forms. And reading requires a certain kind of work on the part of the brain. If you need to bring a lot to the reading experience, so you imagine the sounds of the words or you create images, create visuals to go with the words that you're reading. And so reading is very much a co production between the book and the reader. And that creates its own particular kinds of effects.
Susie BW 15:18
And Beth, I know that you've done study into done research into reading formats. I mean, I buy print books, I read ebooks, I read library books, I was just thinking about what when I make that choice of where I'm going, what can you tell us about that?
Dr Beth 15:37
There is a lot of different research happening on the effects of different formats on the reading experience. And a lot of this research happens with children. So it's learning to read on a screen, does that work differently to reading a printed book. And there is, you know, in terms of the material experience, it is different, you handle the book differently to the way you would handle a tablet. But in terms of what I was talking about there, and the quality of attention you bring, I think that can happen just as easily on a screen provided you don't have the distractions of pings and notifications and pop ups. But if it's something like a dedicated e reader, or if the browser you're using has blocked all other distractions you can into that it's almost like a flow state, and a screen as much as he can in a print book.
Susie BW 16:23
It's funny you say that, Beth? I'm just looking to my right, I've got three documents here that I particularly need to read. And I've printed them out. Is that just because I'm old? I mean, is it a generational thing? are young people much more able to absorb information from the screen, as well as they can from a print book?
Dr Beth 16:43
No, I don't think it's about age. And there's certainly lots of millennials and younger who just love print books, there's, you know, there's been a resurgence in printing many ways. I think, though it is important that we each make decisions about the formats that work for us for different tasks and different kinds of reading that we want to do. And some of us spend so much time on screens for work say that if you want to switch out of that constant state of responding to things and having zoom meetings and dedicate your task to reading a document, printing it out can be a really good idea. And I can see why that would make sense. Getting back to what reading does, why we read and what it does for us. Does reading make you kinda roll or happier or somehow a better person. Breeding is an activity that has a lot of moral expectations foisted upon it, you might say, it's really bound up in that whole idea of what it means to have a liberal democratic society. You know, literacy is very important. And we value reading as part of education. And lots of reading programs seem to carry with them the promise that by reading more a person will become a better citizen. That's just something to bear in mind. I think when you think about the status reading has in society, and then how we each think about how we as readers, craft our own reading practice and the value that it holds for us. books do have a symbolic weight, they prestigious often, especially compared to some new media forms that haven't yet had a chance to develop that prestige in society. But in terms of where the books actually make you happier, actually, my key kinda, I think that it really depends on the book and the person, you know, it depends is such a nothing answer. But there are just so many factors at play,
Susie BW 18:31
not sure that you answered the question, then. It may be a fault of the question, actually. Because it, it would be unrealistic to expect every book works for every reader in the same way.
A fault in the question. It's a very nice question.
Dr Beth 18:48
That's a delightful question. I, okay, I'll go out on a limb and give a slightly riskier to me answer. I think books can help you develop as a person, I think they can help you develop empathy, because when you read a book, you're at the very least reading another person's view on the world, the author's view on the world, and you're entering into that worldview for the time that you spend reading. And then if you encounter characters, then you get the chance to consider that character, sometimes from inside their worldview, as well sometimes as part of a kind of mix of characters on the page. And all of that helps you practice your social skills and imagining the lives of others and I think that can pay off in terms of making you a more empathetic and inclusive member of society. And
Susie BW 19:39
what do we make of George steiners observation that some of the Nazi common dance would come home from their grisly day's work and weep to Mozart and read Roca and go to bed and then get up in the morning and go back to work? sounds plausible?
Dr Beth 19:56
Are you saying culture can't fix everything?
Susie BW 20:00
It concerns me that somebody could be so it seems as if you must be so divided internally that you can have these aesthetic sensibilities and at the same time be so brutalized as to go out and be able to brutalize other people and not see not feel a contradiction that troubles me. Yeah,
Dr Beth 20:19
it certainly doesn't seem ideal to have that.
Dr Steve 20:21
Dr Beth 20:24
But that compartmentalization, I guess, between the things you do and the things that you read, or listen to or culturally consume, been reading a bit about the American pragmatists lately, William James, and so on. And this strong belief was that art is not separate from life, must be part of life, and that we should integrate into our lives in all sorts of ways that it's part of the daily warp and weft or texture of what we do. And I think that, you know, that is something to aim for in terms of integrating all the different facets of the person's life. I took you, acquainting a man and added me quoting a man see,
I can play that game.
Susie BW 21:05
I have noticed that who I was quoting was a man.
I don't know what to say about our Nazis. I really don't have to ever think about that.
We're against it.
Dr Beth 21:16
I think it's isn't it a rule that every internet, everything on the internet has to end up talking about Nazis? I think it is. And this is, this is our moment, our Nazi moment.
Susie BW 21:26
I've driven you to it. There is a law that says that whoever resorts to referring to the Nazis first, as thereby lost the the argument, the debate,
you're bad, then Steve?
Well, let's lighten it a little bit. Sorry. It's another man. I don't know if you know who this is. fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere. But it turns up the muscles that can of course, I could be wrong.
Dr Beth 21:54
Sounds like Terry Pratchett. That's right.
Susie BW 21:56
Well done. Thanks, 10 points. Today, I suppose what he's talking about is that it can open up worlds. But you still have to you talked earlier before Beth about reading being a co production, and that it doesn't do all of the work, it can't make you good, you have to bring more stuff to it.
Dr Beth 22:14
That's right. That's why I'm kind of reluctant to valorize great books, quote, unquote, because I think at least part of what makes a book great is what a reader brings to it. And you know, what a culture brings to it too, in terms of the way the book is distributed and discussed and framed by teachers or book clubs or so on. So yes, books and reading, not necessarily great in and of themselves, but they have the potential to do a lot of good in someone's life.
Susie BW 22:41
I belong to a support group, for families where someone is affected by facial difference. And that group has a really uses the book wonder as an icon, if you know the book wonder it's about a child with facial difference. And so people put up means about being kind. It's a really lovely thing. I gave that book to my kids, both of them read it. And I asked them who they identified with. And my son said that he identified with the boy with the facial difference. And my daughter said she identified with the sister, it was, it was really sweet. It was a really wonderful example of how a book can bring people together, and help with aloneness in an unusual situation, as well as being. And it's a great book, it's got a very satisfying ending where everything everything comes right.
Dr Beth 23:34
Yeah, and I think both of those forms of relating to a character can be really powerful. So either identifying with a character, and we see a lot of debate around that, in the terms of the issue of representation are children of all different backgrounds, able to see themselves represented in the characters in the books that are published in the publishing industry, I guess, fulfilling its obligation to provide readers with that opportunity to identify with characters. But then also that way of, you know, I've studied a lot of Goodreads reviews for different research projects. And reviewers often write about falling in love with a character or seeing a character as a friend and rooting for them to do well. And that kind of attachment, I think can also be powerful.
Susie BW 24:18
And for the benefit of those on the radio at the point where you said falling in love with a character. I'll just flick my zoom background back to Mr. Darcy. So he's reading a superior form of entertainment to Netflix or killing zombies on the PlayStation? No, I
Dr Beth 24:35
really don't think it is. I've never watched more Netflix in my life than I have this year. And I think different cultural forms meet different needs. And there's such a range within each format as well from the prestige television shows, through to the hilarious montages of homemade videos. You know, it's all just part of a rich universe of cultural products that we can engage with all the time. Someone else to cart with the superior line?
Susie BW 25:02
What about what you read? Is it okay to be judgmental? About 50 Shades of Grey? It's very low, bro.
Dr Beth 25:10
My instinctive answer to that is no, it's not okay to be judgmental. I feel like I spend a lot of my time in my research defending the value of all sorts of books to all sorts of readers. But I might hedge that a little bit here. Because I think it is important for each reader to develop their own sense of what books work for them. And so, if you're a reader who really loves Jane Austen, I think it's okay for you to not like 50 shades of grey or fusion, not like Star Wars novelizations because that process of articulating your likes and dislikes helps you to develop an, I guess, an aesthetic practice that is fulfilling and meaningful to you. Whereas if you're a reader who really really loves romance novels, you love the happy ever after ending, you get a lot of comfort from the narrative structure of those novels. I think it's absolutely fine for you as a reader to then say that you don't like boring, self indulgent literary fiction.
Susie BW 26:13
With What's your favorite book? Oh,
Dr Beth 26:15
my favorite author is Alice Monroe. I read an interview with her once where she talked about how her body of work all of her different short story collections, she imagined as a house where a reader could just walk into any room. So it didn't really matter the order that you read them in. And I've always taken that as an invitation. Whenever I feel a bit down or too loose, and I just open up one of her book collections at random and start reading the story that I find there and she's right. That works beautifully.
Dr Steve 26:41
About You, Susie.
Susie BW 26:42
I don't think I have a favorite at the moment. I've got a massive crush on Curtis Sittenfeld. I don't even know how to say her surname Sittenfeld. So, so I'm just working my way through through hers are they're just beautifully written and questioning and engaging and they make me feel virtuously, like I'm reading quite highbrow but they're very, very accessible. If I had to pick a favorite author, it might be Dorothy L. Sayers who was a detective, novelist and Christian thinker in the active in the 1930s, and 40s. And I like her detective novels very much you were talking about when something is badly written, you found it hard to read, and I find her tired. They are the best return books I've ever read in that they are. They're clever, and they're funny. And every sentence is constructed really nicely. It's not beautiful writing, it's it mystery detective novels. So it's not it's not literary, artsy writing. But it's very easy for me to read, and to feel so satisfied with the writing style and the narrative and the plot and the characterization and the way that they're constructed.
Dr Beth 27:52
I just had an idea listening to both of you talk about beautiful writing and bad writing. And I was wondering if maybe one of the reasons I'm less bothered by good writing versus bad writing is because I work in academia, and I'm just surrounded by bad writing all the time. academics are terrible writers. And I'm trained I guess, to look past a horribly constructed sentence to try and see what else might be going on. You know, is there something interesting behind to this, then maybe that's it professionally immune,
Susie BW 28:22
I love that and I know what you mean. Gosh, it must blunt your sensibilities or you must have to find some way of in your in your sensibilities to be able to absorb the sort of stuff you have to read.
Dr Beth 28:33
Oh, yeah, French theorists, or else the translators of French theorists and stave Who's your favorite writer, or
Susie BW 28:39
what's your favorite book?
Or when I want cheering up? PG Woodhouse? PG Woodhouse is so funny and so beautifully written. It's such a, it's such a sunlit world. And then if I want to be taken to another world, and Raymond Chandler is sort of gritty, LA is a wonderful place. But the the book Above all, and I know it won't surprise you as James Joyce's Ulysses. And I think of Leopold bloom. Beth, you were talking earlier about the way that we can inhabit a character's mind. Leopold bloom is to me more real than in some ways more real than I am. And more real than anybody else is because there's a finite amount of material, but he's so sharply drawn, and so himself, and so sort of wonderfully three dimensional that, that I'm very, very fond of him.
Unknown Speaker 29:33
Unknown Speaker 29:34
I love that.
Dr Beth 29:35
I've been talking about the different kinds of reading we do at different points in our life. I've been reading Finnegans week this year in lockdown. And the reason I chose that is because I stuck at home with young children myself. There's a lot going on in terms of not having much time to think you know, our days were very fractured. And so I could just read for 10 minutes at a time and get something out of Finnegans Wake. In fact, I can't Read It For more than about 10 minutes at a time before I get tired being It was a couple of really interesting sentences and ideas and wordplay and sort of maximum reading value for minimum reading time.
Susie BW 30:11
I don't know if anyone listening has actually tried Finnegans Wake it was James Joyce's last book and he spent 17 years writing it. And I'm just about to insert at this point, a little extract of James Joyce reading from Finnegans Wake himself, just to give you a taste of it, this is from the Anna Livia pourable part which begins well you know or don't you can see that every tailing has a telling and it goes on
Unknown Speaker 30:38
when you know don't cannot or happened I told you every telling has a tailing and that he or she have it look look the dust is growing. My branches loft you're taking root and my whole chair is gone. Ashley Viru Viru for ages on its own as late as endless now since I already have one last for water hoses. I took the summer I heard them sign when will they be assembled? Oh my back my back my back. I'd want to go to a slip in time. There's the barrel for sexual items conjecture this endless play. I bring out the globe ringing
Dr Beth 31:20
I know that recording. You know that's an example of a passage from Finnegans Wake that is quite beautiful. But there are lots of other passages that you'd have a hard time describing as beautiful writing but they're nonetheless fascinating and engaging and absorbing it's a very interesting thing listening to a writer reading their own work and whether it changes it for you and and what it says one of my favorite readings is Sylvia Plath rating Daddy,
Susie BW 31:46
I don't know if you've ever heard that. It's so powerful. Such a strangely very English accent is my memory. And very the determination that the emotion the cold anger in her voice, I think is is quite powerful.
Unknown Speaker 32:01
Daddy, you do not do you do not do any more black shoe in which I have lived like a foot for 30 years poor and quite, barely daring to breathe or her to Daddy, I have had to kill you. You died before I had time. Marble heavy, a bag full of God. ghastly statue with one grade toe big as a Frisco seal and a head in the freakish Atlantic where it pours being green over blue in the waters of beautiful Nasik.
Susie BW 32:39
Perhaps you might both like to talk about the experience of reading to and with children because that's a very intimate and treasured part of the experience of parenthood. I think
Dr Beth 32:49
well you say that but I stopped doing it as soon as I could. The moment they could read for themselves I cut them off.
Dr Steve 32:59
Well, there's a headline Beth,
Dr Beth 33:01
over to your own interior world now I no longer need to be part of this. Go develop your own reading practice.
Susie BW 33:07
We did we did reading for many years and used audiobooks were recommended for kids with learning difficulties. So we we did a lot of audiobooks for things like dyslexia, as well as as reading and it was great. My daughter at the moment is reading this is this is fantastic. If you're interested in books as cultural artifacts, she read a series of books called deltora quest by Emily Radha and loved them. And then we found an anime series that was made a few years ago in Japan, and of deltora quest, and it's quite weirdly quite different to that it's very loosely based. And so she's really enjoyed seeing the the anime makers interpretation of the book. And now I've just found a manga graphic novel that of deltora quest that seems to combine some of the ideas from the anime and some of the original narrative from the book and has yet another visual, it's a visual interpretation that's different for the anime as well and it's totally doing my heading. But she's just loving this. And also because it's manga, it starts backwards. So it starts at the the back page and goes diagonally right to left, and it's almost giving me a migraine just thinking about that. So yeah, really enjoying that.
Dr Beth 34:23
I think that's fantastic to think about the way the book kind of spills out from its covers. No book is really contained within the Codex. And there are different versions and adaptations and spin offs in the universe that you can't really put a boundary around. My daughter's had the same thing recently with the baby sitters Club, which I read as a child and so I knew that she would love and I saw the Netflix series was coming up. So before it came out, I took it to the bookshop to I don't know buy a copy of the baby sitters club, but the ones she wanted to read were these exciting new graphic novel versions. So she read those and then bookshelves closed doors were locked down. So she downloaded So baby sitters club books on my Kindle.
Susie BW 35:01
So by the end, she, you know, encountered these stories in four different formats. I don't know the research, but I've seen it quoted that the factor that makes a difference in children's educational outcomes is not the type of school they go to. It's not their teachers, it's not even their peers. It's the number of books that the parents have in their home,
Dr Beth 35:22
ie the amount of money they have.
Susie BW 35:24
I don't know, it may be what to bring home a couple of pallets of books and just drop them, drop them in the shade and see if see if that helps. Yeah,
Dr Beth 35:32
I mean, that really points to the, you know, I talked about reading, being laden with all these moral expectations, but it's also freighted with class as well. You know, owning a lot of books is a very middle class signifier, a badge, particularly I guess, if it's rows of encyclopedias.
Susie BW 35:47
I was at a discussion not that long ago, where people were being very angry really about discount department stores carrying children's books, and it was like, it was Walter white privilege. Actually, it was why can't people go into the independent department bookshops to buy their children's books, and support that talent, we support independent bookshop, which is great, and I love independent bookshops. But it was blindingly obvious to me that by putting kids books in BW, you are enabling more people to buy kids books.
Unknown Speaker 36:20
Susie BW 36:22
you show that wasn't in a satirical newspaper.
Dr Beth 36:26
I get that there's, there's a point behind it, which is that, you know, books are expensive to produce they they're the outcome of an author's creative labor that should be recompensed. Authors in Australia make something like 13,000 a year on average, hardly any money at all. And if we value what books bring, then we should value the effort that goes into making and distributing them, and selling books for five or $6. Each and only a few selected titles rather than a wide range possibly undermines the very book culture and reading culture that we're hoping to produce. But on the other hand, making books accessible is a great thing to do. I think there's probably room for Darris a diverse ecosystem of books and prices and ways to buy or acquire books. Supporting libraries is another great thing to do in terms of accessibility.
Susie BW 37:15
So But should we be reading more?
Dr Beth 37:17
Yes, definitely. I think we should all be experimenting with different kinds of cultural experiences as part of self care in a difficult time, looking for the books that we find rewarding or interesting or even just provide some stress relief in the midst of a busy day.
Susie BW 37:35
Amen to that.
Thank you so much. It's been great. You get to come again if
Dr Beth 37:39
you want. Thanks for having me. I love talking about books.
Dr Steve 37:41
Transcribed by https://otter.ai