At a time when our children are becoming less and less literate, you would think that any educator would be happy to see a student pick up a book and read it. Well if you thought that, you would be wrong. At least that is the case for the headteacher of a prominent and expensive school for boys located in the Wimbledon area of southwest London.
It seems that Andrew Halls, the head of King’s College School has decided that his students are not reading the right kind of books these days and has even boasted of preventing his students from reading what he considers “bad” books. Halls says that books with zombies and vampires in them are not suitable reading for the students and that the action-packed books the students are often fond of are “not good enough” for educational purposes and should be discouraged.
Because of this, he is trying to stop the 11-year-olds at his school from reading books like the Alex Rider spy series, the Artemis Fowl sci-fi novels and other fantastical titles like the Twilight series. In an essay in the Sunday Times, Hall said he is determined to steer his charges – whose parents pay around $19,000 a year in fees – away from what he calls “literary fast food”.
In the piece, Halls wrote: “I keep saying ‘good’ books. That’s because, unlike some, I do think there are bad ones. Or at least, books that are so simplistic, brutal or banal they are barely worth reading. I wouldn’t ban them, but I certainly wouldn’t bother recommending them.”
So the Head Master has instead issued an assembled list of some 300 approved classics which will be placed in every classroom. He says the boys will be encouraged to read them instead of books they might otherwise choose for themselves. There is no word as to whether or not such books as “Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Something Wicked This Way Comes” are included in his list, despite mostly being written by English authors and having been considered Classic literature for decades.
At least one of the banned authors, Anthony Horowitz, the author of the Alex Rider books, criticized attempts by the Head Master to police the tastes of the students. Horowitz said: “Halls should have more confidence in the ability of children to find the books they enjoy and which inspire them — and perhaps rather less in his ability to dictate their tastes.” Frankly I agree, our children spend entirely too much time playing video games and not enough time reading. Personally I am ecstatic for the fact that they even know what a book is and know how to read.