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“Led by pleasure and wonder”: Dana Gioia on creating a new generation of readers

You can’t force young people into literature. They need to be led by pleasure and wonder. Creating a new generation of readers is important. When a society loses the capacity to read fiction, it loses one of the most powerful ways by which we grow and refine our inner lives, our understanding of ourselves, and our understanding of other people.

My experience with Ray [Bradbury] — and other science fiction writers — changed the way I looked at literature, not only as a writer but also as a critic and editor. He helped me understand intuitively (before I could explain it intellectually) that there was no set hierarchy of literary modes. The novel was not superior to the romance as a mode of storytelling. They were just different. What mattered was excellence. One of the main changes in literary taste during my lifetime has been the erasure of the line between realism and fantasy. Likewise there is no longer a hard line between “serious” and “popular” culture.

As an editor of anthologies, I understood that the best way to get 18-year-olds to read was by offering them a variety of good work in different styles. Let them discover and explore their own taste. If you don’t have a science fiction story, horror story, or adventure story in that mix, you might as well forget about engaging young readers, especially the boys. This diversity does not represent an abandonment of standards. There are masterpieces in all those genres.

The way we teach literature has failed to engage the imagination of the new generation of readers. Unless we acknowledge and build on their experience in popular culture, nothing will improve.

Dana Gioia, interviewed by Sam Weller in Ray Bradbury at 100 – The LA Review of Books

More on books and reading:

Deep Literacy: what it takes
Kevin Kelly on deep literacy
Tyler Cowen on reading fast, reading widely and reading well
When to stop? Page 37
Neil Gaiman on reading fiction, empathy and changing the world
Schopenhauer on reading yourself stupid
Books as network opportunities
Broker Books
Katherine Rundell on learning from children’s books … and on their subversive politics
Mortimer Adler on permanent literature
Folk art and reading as rivals
Misreading the mind: Ezra Klein and Nicholas Carr on transactional reading and contemplation
C.S. Lewis on reading the originals and on old books

And lots of links about Literacy and literacy development in Indonesia

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...