1. Asyou read the text:
a) Look for the answers to these questions:
1. What profession stereotypes are there? What is a stereotypical "student"? "lecturer"? "poet"? 2. Is the "classic image of a writer" completely false? Be specific. 3. Would you agree that artistic people are often superstitious? 4. Who is given the title of "Dame" in Britain? 5. What suggests that Dame Muriel Spark is rather neurotic about the tools of her trade? 6. What part did the school play in shaping her career? 7. How did Graham Green help the young writer? 8.What are the scanty biographical details given in the profile?
b) Find in the text the facts to illustrate the following:
1. For Muriel Spark writing is the most important thing in her life. 2. Dame Muriel Spark is a stereotypical writer. 3. "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" is a great novel.
C) Summarise the text in three paragraphs.
In spite of the Russian proverb one can argue about taste: everybody does, and one result is that tastes change. If given a choice what would you rather read a novel or short stories in book form? Why? Try to substantiate your point of view. Use some of the ideas listed below.
"A novel appeals in the same way that a portrait does — through the richness of its human content."
"It is not only an author's characters that endear him to the public: it is also his ethical outlook that appears with greater or less distinctness in everything he writes."
"A volume of short stories contains more ideas, since each story is based on an idea; it has much greater variety of mood, scene, character and plot."
A) What do children want to read about? This is a question that teachers and parents have been asking for a long time. Read the texts below and prepare, to give your view on the problem.
One person who had no doubts about what youngsters wanted to read was the children's author Enid Blyton. Although she died in 1968, and many of her stories are today rather dated, her books continue to be hugely popular with children. They have been translated into 27 languages, and they still sell over eight million copies a year, despite tough competition from television and computer games.
Blyton was not only a gifted children's author, she was also incredibly prolific. During her lifetime, she wrote over 700 books for children of all ages. Her best-known creations are the The Famous Five series, about a group of teenagers who share exciting adventures, and the Noddy books, about a little boy who lives in a world where toys come to life.
But if children love Blyton's books, the same cannot be said for adults. All her stories have one thing in common: a happy ending. And this, combined with predictable plots, has led many grown-ups to dismiss Blyton's stories as boring. After her death, her critics went further and accused her of racism and of negative stereotyping — the villains in her Noddy books were "golliwogs", children's dolls representing black people. Many: of her books were also denounced as sexist because of the way she treated female characters — girls were usually given a secondary role, while the boys had the real adventures.
Enid Blyton firmly believed in the innocence of childhood. She offered her young readers imaginary worlds, which were an escape from harsh realities of life. In Blyton's books, baddies; were always defeated and the children who defeated them were always good.
(BBC English, August 1997)
Once many years ago, in anticipation of the children we. would one day have, a relative of my wife's gave us a box of Ladybird Books from the 1950s and 60s. They all had titles like Out in the Sun and Sunny Days at the Seaside, and contained meticulously drafted, richly coloured illustrations of a prosperous, contented, litter-free Britain in which the sun always shone, shopkeepers smiled, and children in freshly pressed clothes derived happiness and pleasure from innocent pastimes — riding a bus to the shops, floating a model boat on a park pond, chatting to a kindly policeman.
My favourite was a book called Adventure on the Island. There was, in fact, precious little adventure in the book — the high point, I recall, was finding a starfish suckered to a rock — but I loved it because of the illustrations (by the gifted and much-missed J.H. Wingfield). I was strangely influenced by this book and for some years agreed to take our family holidays at the British seaside on the assumption that one day we would find this magic place where summer days were forever sunny, the water as warm as a sitz-bath, and commercial blight unknown.
When at last we began to accumulate children, it turned out that they didn't like these books at all because the characters in them never did anything more lively than visit a pet shop or watch a fisherman paint his boat. I tried to explain that this was sound preparation for life in Britain, but they wouldn't have it and instead, to my dismay, attached their affections to a pair of irksome little clots called Topsy and Tim.
(Bill Bryson "Notes From a Small Island", 1997)
b) Use the topical vocabulary in answering the questions:
1. Can you remember at all the first books you had? 2. Did anyone read bedtime stories to you? 3. You formed the reading habit early in life, didn't you? What sorts of books did you prefer? 4. What English and American children's books can you name? Have you got any favourites? 5. Is it good for children to read fanciful stories which are an escape from the harsh realities of life? Should they be encouraged to read more serious stuffs as "sound preparation for life"? 6. How do you select books to read for pleasure? Do you listen to advice? Do the physical characteristics matter? Such as bulky size, dense print, loose pages, notations on the margins, beautiful/gaudy illustrations etc.? 7. Do you agree with the view that television is gradually replacing reading? 8. Is it possible for television watching not only to discourage but actually to inspire reading? 9. Some teachers say it is possible to discern among the young an insensitivity to nuances of language and an inability to perceive more than just a story? Do you think it's a great loss? 10. What do you think of the educational benefits of "scratch and sniff" books that make it possible for young readers to experience the fragrance of the garden and the atmosphere of a zoo? 11. What kind of literacy will be required of the global village citizens of the 21st century?