In thinking about the demise of the bookstore, I got to thinking about the books that are sold there. And I think that may be a big part of the problem–there is very little true literature being published anymore.
This has been especially obvious to be when shopping for books for my children to read. There are plenty of fluff choices–Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Junie B. Jones, etc. But these are all books that are not welcome in our house. Aside from the fact that they often feature characters that we don’t want our children to emulate, they’re just poorly written. Poor sentence structure, simplistic vocabulary–it’s the dumbing down of America in one neat little package. Children are no longer being encouraged to read books with rich storylines and complex sentence structure and vocabulary–now they’re just encouraged to read the latest gross-out story, or something that, while it may make them laugh, won’t make them think.
But how are children supposed to learn to be good writers themselves, if they don’t have good writers to model their work after? They say that one of the best way to encourage a child’s skill in writing is to give him something well-written to read. Doing copywork based on good literature is an excellent exercise for children in discovering how a good sentence is constructed, learning new words, learning how to write himself.
And how is a child supposed to be prepared to read adult classics, if he’s only been exposed to fluff as a child? I suppose the short answer is, fewer and fewer adults are reading the classics–they’re just reading the adult version of fluff. This, too, is painfully obvious in bookstores–it seems that anyone can get a book published today, regardless of ability or creativity.
We don’t just give children candy to eat–some parents don’t even give their children any. Rather, we focus on healthy, balanced nutrition. So why don’t we take the same approach to children’s minds? Instead of filling their brains up with the literary version of candy, we should be filling them with the protein and vegetables of the literary world. Perhaps if we raised our standards on what makes acceptable literature, books, (and by extension bookstores), would experience a renaissance, and more people would want to buy, and read, good stories.