Most of the time, we associate enjoying literature as sitting at home reading a book. Reading should be an adventure though. Here is a starter list which will get the young literary person out and about.
Visit a writer’s home. I don’t mean that we should turn up at Jacqueline Wilson’s door and demand a cup of coffee. I am thinking of places like Haworth where the Bronte sisters lived. Sometimes, writers from the Victorian period can seem unreal or stuffy to young people. However, when they visit their homes’ and see their clothes’, their manuscripts,’ and in the case of The Brontes, the room where some of them died, the writers become real. I remember visiting Haworth as a teenager after reading “Wuthering Heights”, I was Catherine Earnshaw as I walked on the moors.
Visit a literary festival. It doesn’t matter whether it is a huge established one like Cheltenham or a small local one which attracts four writers. Literary festivals charm both kids and teens. I will never forget seeing Anthony Horowitz in a marquee at the first ever Oxford Literary Festival. I thought I had gone to a rock concert by mistake. The placed was packed and the atmosphere was vibrant. This was even before Horowitz appeared. He came on dressed in all black with his hair slicked up. Kids of all ages were wringing their hands with glee. Two boys at the back of me giggled excitedly as they decided he was like a mad professor. Literary festivals inspire children and events can cost as little as a few pounds, some are free.
The library is going to seem like an obvious choice. The reason I have chosen it is, libraries can give children, particularly teenagers, autonomy. My fourteen year old is constantly discovering new writers and people he wants to read about. He goes onto the online library for the county and gets books on every subject possible sent to our village. When the book arrives, he is notified by email. He promptly pops around the corner and picks his goodies up. He is independent. It doesn’t cost anything and he feels in control.
I often choose books to read for their settings. Creating a setting for reading can really enrich a child or teen’s book experience. For instance, we used to live about fifteen minutes from a very quiet beach. When my son was younger, we read Michael Morpurgo’s “Kensuke’s Kingdom” by the sea. Okay, we weren’t on a desert island but reading Kensuke’s Kingdom with the waves a few feet away, certainly made it feel like we were. Nowadays, we go to English Heritage ruins and read Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories – we love it.
Follow a literary trail. There are many established ones, for instance, Lincolnshire has one for Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It can be more exciting though, if you do your own. Research a writer from our literary heritage and plot the places to visit. This can take place over the course of weeks and months. When we start doing our research, we are often surprised by what has happened on our own doorsteps.
The last one is getting out and watching literature being performed. Shakespeare and Marlowe wrote plays to be watched and not read. Also, it demonstrates that literature can be a social event, we don’t have to enjoy it in isolation. Look out for drama students performing, it won’t kill the budget and the energy is rejuvenating. I recently watched six plays, performed by drama students, over the course of a weekend. They were not only acting in them but had written and directed them. I was impressed by the quality of their work and their enthusiasm energised me for days afterwards.
Enjoy your literary outing.