World Book Day is an important day and not only for the children’s costume opportunities (though my Little Wolf costume complete with bits of fur was impressive when I was 10). It’s a celebration of reading (check out its website for more info) marked in over 100 countries around the world and is in its 20th year. Today’s post is not only inspired by today being World Book Day, but also by a couple of tweets I saw recently by author Holly Smale (which can be seen here) that were defending letting children, teenagers, and indeed anybody, read what they want without judging or claiming it is the ‘wrong’ kind of reading, in which she defends her “teen passion for Point Horror”.
Smale’s tweets particularly struck a chord with me because I loved Point Horror (and also have an MA in Shakespeare, in fact, as she also mentions). When I was about ten or eleven, there was nothing more exciting than being allowed to put Point Horror books on my mum’s library card (I was not 12 and couldn’t have the Young Adult card needed to take them out) and then go home and settle down with one, finding out how American teenagers dealt with what mostly turned out to be fellow teenagers angered into violence and murder.
Maybe the huge number of Point Horror books that I read from the library didn’t seem to improve me in any way. They didn’t need to. I was, after all, reading for fun. There should be no requirement for reading to be anything more than fun. Actually, I was getting insights into American culture that I knew nothing about because I only watched British TV. My reading precursors to Point Horror, the Goosebumps books, were some of my only other knowledge of the US (it was clearly a spooky place).
My other reading interests weren’t unusual. I read Harry Potter and Jacqueline Wilson, Jean Ure and Darren Shan. I loved Roald Dahl’s autobiographical Boy more than any of his novels for some reason. I did read some books because they were suggested to be ‘more challenging’, enjoying Little Women because of Jo and reading Anne Fine because a teacher kept pushing me to, but I also avoided the classics with boring looking covers in favour of rereading Harry Potter for the fiftieth time. This didn’t harm me. I did, eventually, want to read harder things of my own volition, but because they looked interesting rather than because they were more like ‘proper’ books.
From Point Horror I moved onto Stephen King and Anne Rice, and later Poe and Lovecraft. Even later, and initially as part of my English degree, I developed a huge love for eighteenth century gothic novels such as Lewis’ The Monk, which is arguably just as trashy as Point Horror in some ways. Though I can chart this interest to reach more acclaimed places, I don’t need to. I don’t need to justify Point Horror. Books are entertainment. Read what you like.