I’m all for bringing literature in its various forms to everyone, regardless of education, ability and interest … but do you think watering down some of the “classics” is the way to go? Barnes & Noble’s CEO Steve Riggio says yes. B&N’s publishing unit, Sterling Publishing, has created a series of ten literary “classics” — retold in simpler language.
Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Sterling Publishing unit has launched a new line of 10 literary classics that appeal to both those who struggle to read and to avid younger students whose reading skills aren’t quite strong enough to let them master “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in its original. The books, which have been retold using simpler words, have been surprisingly hot sellers.
“There’s a large world of people with disabilities who can’t appreciate the classics because the books are too difficult,” says Barnes & Noble’s CEO Steve Riggio, whose daughter has Down syndrome.
Some critics say such books as Little Women should be seen in their original formats, but many educators (especially those assisting children with learning disabilities) say that these formats benefit the reader and allow the message of the stories to be enjoyed by everyone. The Classic Starts Series has been getting some flak for what some see as “dumbing down” great literary works, but this certainly isn’t the first time “the classics” have been altered or abridged for young readers (or older readers in a time crunch before a big exam — ahem). Great Illustrated Classics, anyone? I think that using these versions to introduce young people (with disabilities or not) to great literary characters and stories is a good thing and doesn’t threaten in any way the tradition and power of the originals.
What do you think?