Pullman talks about reading easy books and The Book of Dust on BBC Radio Wales
Posted on by Jaya

This week, Philip Pullman spoke to BBC Radio Wales about whether children are reading books that are too easy, as well as giving us another snippet about the book of dust. You can listen to the radio interview here between 26:30 and 30:00. If you aren’t able to listen, we’ve transcribed it below.

BBC: How much of a problem is it that children are reading books that are too easy for them, essentially? Well, I’m very happy to say that actually Philip Pullman, the award-winning bestselling author of, for example, the His Dark Materials trilogy, is on the line now. He’s also the patron of literature Wales. Good evening to you.
PP: Hello, nice to talk to you.
BBC: And you too. How much of a concern is it that it seems children in secondary school now seem to be reading books that are essentially too easy for them?
PP: Well it’s interesting to read that and to hear about this particular problem. It doesn’t surprise me, but I’d like to hear a little more about the context. For example, how many of the secondary schools surveyed had a proper library, with a functioning with a fiction section and a trained librarian in charge of it? Because that’s the thing that makes almost the biggest difference of all. I’m not surprised to learn that children are reading easy books., why wouldn’t they? They always have done and they always will do. I read easy books sometimes, when I read a thriller, you know, because I read other things. But that’s only because I was enabled to read more complicated, and more interesting things, perhaps, when I was young, because there were libraries.
BBC: Philip, is there a case, because we’re looking at teenagers here, where there’s a lot of pressure on children in school these days, and an awful lot of work to do in their studies. Is it a case that perhaps when they are reading for pleasure, they’re looking for something that’s not going to tax them?
PP: That’s a very good point, and I’m sure you’re right. There is far too much work done in schools, not only by children but also by teachers, who have to complete endless forms, filling in reports, studies, and that sort of thing, and this leaves them pretty well exhausted, and unable to do any proper teaching. Our society has become obsessed by results and facts and figures. We demand that everybody should fill in forms and take care to show us they’re better than they were the last time they did the test, which is absolutely absurd. What we really need, if we want a nation of reading, children and adults as well, is books, time, and silence. Children are very willing to read anything if they’re led to it and encouraged, and are given the time to read it properly. But we want instant results. We want things to be shown up at once, and that’s not the way that good stories work. They take a time to settle themselves in the brain, they take a time to mature and come to life, or germinate if that’s the metaphor that makes most sense in this current context, and come to flower. It takes time. You can’t do it immediately, and children, who are very tired after lots and lots of these silly phonics exercises and the other things to do, of course attempt to read easy books. Why wouldn’t they?
BBC: For example, though, you have a new book, not that it’s an easy book, we’ll have to wait and see. You have a new book out in October, The Book of Dust. Fervent expectations about what that will mean. Can you give us any insight into what we can expect?
PP: Yes, it’s set in the same world as His Dark Materials, with some of the same characters. The main character is Lyra, the girl who is the centre of His Dark Materials. She is at the centre of this story. But it’s not a sequel because some of it occurs after that story and some of it occurs before it. But it’s not a prequel, and it’s not a sequel, I’ve said it’s an ‘equel’. It’s a different story, set in the same world and it stands beside it, not before it or after it. I hope people will like it, because I certainly enjoyed the many years it’s taken me to write.
BBC: There we are. Thank you very much for your time this evening, Philip Pullman there.
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