I’ve spoken to a lot of reluctant readers at schools across the world over the years, at festivals, book days, comic conventions and countless other places, where I’ve had the opportunity to convince children to ‘change the channel’ and give books another chance. But last week I found myself out of my ‘comfort zone’, in Jane Austen’s one time kitchen in Alton, Hampshire, with a BBC film crew beside me, as I spoke to a group of disassociated teens from fourteen to eighteen years of age about why not only was Pride and Prejudice still relevant, but why they needed to read it. Daniel in the lions den had a better situation.
And if that wasn’t bizarre enough, the following day I was at Orbital Comics in London, again with the BBC and a smaller group of the kids, showing them the differences in comics, books and other forms of media, while showing them that reading was reading, no matter what it was.
On the 28th of January, it’s the 200th anniversary of Pride And Prejudice, very much the ‘Eastenders‘ of it’s day. Laura Ancell of the BBC contacted me last year, partly due to my work with schools, and partly due to my adaptation of ‘Pride & Prejudice & Zombies’ into a graphic novel a few years back, asking me to chat to the kids about the book, and see whether we could convince them to have another go at reading the original.
The kids themselves were from a youth group near Winchester, and didn’t have a clue was was going to happen from one moment to the next. And when you watch the show, BBC One Inside Out (It’ll be on iPlayer the following day), you’ll see exactly what they did to learn more about Jane and her life. I don’t want to talk about it here as I don’t want to spoil it.
It’s well known that I’m a massive advocate of using whatever’s to hand to get kids reading. And at Orbital I was surprised to see what exactly did encourage them. Did they change their minds by the end? Ah, you’ll have to watch the show to see that.
All in all, it was a very inspiring couple of days, with a group of teenagers who gave me a new spin on why they didn’t like to read, something that’s fueled me even more for the 2013 Change The Channel tour.
(If you’re a school and would like to be part of this UK tour, click on the SCHOOL TALKS button in the menu bar.)
Did it make me want to read Pride & Prejudice again? No, but it did make me want to watch the Colin Firth TV adaptation again.
Inside Out will be on BBC One South on the 28th of January at 7.30pm.