Theories about why young people do not read, or do not read what they should or as much as would be desirable; criticism of the use of technologies, the preference for stories in audiovisual format, the fact that they do not buy culture but they do consume it if it is free. These are issues that concern Azoka, which wonders how to attract these audiences who visit Landako with its schools and lose the habit as they grow up. What to tell them to make them go, buy and read? More than telling them something, it is about doing, as Miren Billelabeitia, who has been a high school teacher for 40 years, says. “We can tell them whatever we want, and if we don’t do it with them, it’s of no use.”
That’s why his classes for a long time began with a short reading. «Reading aloud to them provokes curiosity, we get them interested in listening, as they listened when they were very little and we read them stories. “I don’t know why it’s not done when they are older.” Thus she created a habit and treated the readings as a starting point for a conversation with the group, because they became more relaxed, they stopped thinking about “political correctness” and academics. “It has to be something transversal and reflect current issues.”
Regarding this, the winner of the Euskadi Translation Prize (with her father), Maialen Berasategi, born in 1989, remembers that what she did not like as a child were “those half-didactic novels for teenagers that they forced us to read.” Better the adventures of ‘The Five’ – habitual reading by Arantxa Urretabizkaia and Miren Billelabeitia in their childhood – and Harry Potter and, later, “the strength, the rhythm, the truth of the words of Miguel Hernández”, with whom he recovered “the pleasure of listening and reciting literature.”
“Not all of us like to read,” says Billelabeitia. And. And when you read, out of hobby or obligation, do you like everything? “Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t.” If she, winner of the Euskadi Essay Prize in Basque, knows what she is talking about because she has taught for many years, Patxi Zubizarreta has dedicated herself to children and young people. The last Euskadi Prize in this category is clear that, as Borges said, “among the various human instruments, the book continues to be the most amazing. The others are extensions of his body: the microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his sight; the telephone, of the voice; then we have the plow and the sword, extensions of his arm. The book is an extension of memory and imagination.
Storytelling in turbulent times
But everything evolves and “the question is how to adapt, how to recover and whisper with the voice of traditional stories, how to reconvert it into something current, how to narrate these turbulent times.” His narratives, which he continues to write by hand, are often accompanied by a CD, a DVD or a QR code that allows you to listen to part of the story. And on more than one occasion we have approached the youth audience by offering them a show that integrates music, painting, dance and, of course, literature. She touches on current issues and avoids moralizing, the trap into which many authors fall, and with them their readers. «It seems that we always want to educate them, inoculate them with values. “It is normal for young people to distrust what we adults offer them, our cages.”
Arantza Urretabizkaia Literature in Basque. ‘The Last House’
“I don’t remember that in my childhood we read non-stop, we were just people”
Alejandro Morellón Literature in Spanish. ‘The worst possible scenario’
«The value of books lies in how much of what we read really tells us about ourselves»
Patxi Zubizarreta Children and youth. ‘pig’
«It is up to us to encourage them to also feel like creators of comics, poems, songs»
Miren Billelabeitia Ensayo in Basque. ‘What One Loves’
«We read aloud to them. Why not in adolescence?
Ander Izaguirre Essay in Spanish. ‘Return to the country of Elkano’
«I don’t know if young people read less now than in my time. I know some who are great readers.
Translation of Maialen Berasategi. ‘Paradise’
«I remember the day when the teacher read aloud to us the ‘Elegy to Ramón Sijé’»
Illustration by Joseba Larratxe
«I don’t think that the amount on offer will keep young people away from reading. If not, television would have disappeared.
Alejandro Morejón, Euskadi Prize for Literature in Spanish, believes that other formats can be used to promote reading. «To someone who has seen the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy I would say: if you liked the movies, wait until you read the books, what Tolkien does is wonderful. For me, reading is an immersive experience, like video games or movies. What matters are good stories. Through that work that he mentions, Joseba Larratxe entered literature. «When I was twelve years old, my father, seeing me playing medieval fantasy video games, told me to read ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and my head exploded. I understood that everything I liked came from those books. Then I started doing a little digging and discovered Asimov, K. Dick, Dan Simmons.
Now, Larratxe enjoys reading “like a pig.” As it is. And that is why although times and formats, concerns and horizons have changed, these writers continue to defend the wonderful experience of reading. It’s about doing, not saying, true, but saying also works sometimes. So he would tell young people that “they will find stories that they have not seen in movies or in series, that the variety in plots and characters is wider and, therefore, there is a perfect book for each reader; “normally the audiovisual fiction they like the most before was a book.”
Zubizarreta, for his part, would confess that “literature makes my life more bearable, it often helps me put into perspective what is a big problem for me. “Books don’t solve anything for me, but they help me know what I have.” And Urretabizkaia assures them that “it helps you live better, to live more lives, to develop empathy”; This is what Ander Izagirre thinks, “reading multiplies your life. You can meet people from other times, imagine the life of the future, an immense panorama of relationships, emotions, memories, fantasies opens up, much richer than what our only life gives us. “It’s a bit like living several times.”
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