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What To Read? The Contributing Factors To The Process Of Book Selection

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HUMA 3639: Reading and Readers: Representation and Culture

Final Research Essay

What to Read?

The Contributing Factors to the Process of Book Selection

"Never apologize for your reading tastes"

- Betty Rosenberg

Andrea Basta


Professor Priscila Uppal

Wednesday March 22nd 2006

What to Read?

The Contributing Factors to the Process of Book Selection

"Sir," he said, "I would put a child into a library and let him read at his choice."

- Dr. Johnson to Boswell

The representation of readers in society has prompted a series of questions regarding the process of book selection and the exploration of why people often choose to only read certain books as opposed to others. Throughout the course, the figure of "the reader" as the central artistic and cultural construct, allows the topic of choice and reading to be analysed through the essential argument of why we choose to read what we read. What stimulates our choice when deciding on a book for ourselves? Do we alter that option when deciding for someone else? Is it part of our personality or environment that influences our particular preference of genres? Are there certain literary works we find more appealing on the basis of the author? Why do we choose not to read one book, but read another two or three times? This essay will focus on the factors that contribute to the process of book selection starting from childhood and the outcome and impact of these decisions on the entirety of the readers' life.

A preliminary brainstorming revealed that there are numerous factors that can contribute to the selection of books; personal taste in genres, the availability of literature, suggestions from others, reading environments, censorship, connections to childhood, author, book title and cover are all possible characteristics that come to influence book selection. Unfortunately, there is the assumption that all of these potential elements contribute to the action of "choice" which the reader possesses. Before the understanding of choice can be analysed, readers must recollect that at one point the option to choose was not ours.

Thinking back to the initial experiences one has with reading and books it is quite common to call to mind a connection to being read to as children. "Rocking me to sleep, my mother used to recite over and over the nursery rhymes from my big book of Mother Goose" (Carlsen, 4). "Somewhat nebulously I can recall listening to my father recite poetry to me when I was a child of two or three (Carlsen, 5). This reading situation with a family member or loved one inspires the child to enjoy the sounds of words and unleashes the desire in them to attain the ability to decipher the black markings underneath the pictures as the secret key to unlocking the story. This safe, secure and comfortable environment kindles the development of reading through the reader's first encounter with books and 'reading'.

Although it is the parents duty to choose literature for their children, what they do decide upon can influence, and more importantly inspire the child's love of reading. "The preschoolers, being conscious of reading and its rewards, want to read for themselves" (Carlsen, 7). This is the birth of choice. The child wants to take reading into their own hands and possess it completely. It is only natural for this emulation to occur but what is most important is the concept that these stories, poems, songs and rhymes will influence the child throughout their development. "Having an older brother to keep me supplied, I spent much of my time browsing through comics. None of this time was spent reading them. Instead I would follow by looking at the pictures, even now I rely on pictures to guide me through magazines (Carlsen, 6). This example, although in regards to comics instead of stories or tales, reflects the power that early imposed reading material has on the rest of the reader's life. This reader's growth with comics has consequently formed

their reading habits into adulthood. This first experience with narrative provides the basis for preference and choice that rapidly extends into the child's intellectual maturation.

While parents, grandparents and family friends may not fully comprehend the weight and significance of their choice in books, as the child grows into their early elementary years, their previous familiarisation with the literature chosen for them expresses itself in their new found ability to choose. " I found myself bored and not a little angry at the progress. This happened, I am quite sure, to many youngsters whose parents had exposed them to books, letters, words and associations years before (Carlsen, 9). The selections now being made by elementary school teachers is not faced with the same unconditional acceptance as choices previously made by parents. The preliminary, yet almost indirect factor that influences reading choices throughout elementary school is the family. The child has recognized their capability to choose books and with the initial influence of their loved ones predilection, have started to develop personal preference and inclination towards certain pieces of literature which may not always be available to read at school.

As maturity levels increase, a youth's personality is also developing. Whether they are in love with dogs or action adventure stories, a youngster's inner personality has a gigantic sway over their choice in reading materials. Facing up to new responsibilities and feelings also stimulate the reader to look into their own personality for options in book selection (Hollindale, 94). "Later on came the Hardy Boys and in these books I found everything a young boy of ten could ever hope for in adventure, intrigue and the thrill of fast cars and powerful speedboats" (Carlsen, 13). This particular boy was

fascinated by mystery, action and the excitement of the chase which appealed to his developing personality. "I started a horse collection, wanted my own, and read everything from horse fiction to training



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