Miura Shion Interview Part 11: The Meaning of Reading and Teaching

Miura Shion is the original author of Fune wo Amu (2011) otherwise also known as The Great Passage. The anime adaptation started airing from October 16 on Fuji Television’s noitaminA block. The interview consists of eleven parts; this is the last part on reading and teaching children who dislike Japanese language. Please go to part one “Encountering a Dictionary” to read the interview from the beginning.

Fune wo Amu film

The Meaning of Reading and Teaching

You might think that’s for the best, but to a child it might be a pain. Because the way of receiving completely differs depending on the child. For this reason education is difficult, and that’s why education is important.

How would you answer if you were asked “What should we do with a child who dislikes Japanese language?”

I think that’s an easy matter. People who say they dislike Japanese language, hate reading books, don’t read books because they’re boring; it’s fine if they don’t read books. Because I think they are interested in other things. Everyone has at least about one thing they like or are good at otherwise, whether these are games or sports. It’s better to do that, than necessitating everyone to read books against their own will at all. At minimum they should be able to read and write kanji to the amount that they won’t be troubled, for the time when they encounter a book one day that suits their taste without deciding from the outset that “books are boring”. I suppose it’s fine to leave it like that.

For example: It’s impossible to tell me to love mathematics. If you tell me to spend fifteen minutes doing numerical equations in my private time, I will start whining. You request me I have to love mathematics against my will, but isn’t it just okay if I can do calculations to the extent that it won’t be a trouble to me while I go shopping? If I only abandon my interest, and even if I cannot solve mathematical problems, I will be able to go through books or television programs, and be conscious regarding the world of mathematics or on mathematicians.

In the exact same way as the recommendation “The ability to make calculations is an indispensable skill in order to live”, there is also the recommendation of “Reading is essential for living, because it enriches our minds”. But I don’t really agree with it…

Isn’t that different, I think? You can read a book by yourself, so that also means that it will enter your own world. But there’s a risk that it will rather narrow your perspective. The meaning of “If you read many books, it will enrich your mind, and polish your character” is the same as the illusion “If you have children, you will grow as a human”. If people who have children grow humanely, and enrich their minds, the world should have been a better place right now. But that’s not the case. Raising kids and reading books, are simply not proportional to the richness of character or mind. Broadening your own world is an important thing, but there are also many things other than books.

For example, socializing while playing grass-lot baseball or soccer, or watching a movie. The company should also be that kind of place, and there are probably also people who communicate with the world of internet and acquire it from there. It’s probably not good to think of reading as special, and encourage reading books against their will. To begin with, you might say ‘if you do this, your mind will enrich,’ or ‘if you didn’t do this, humans would become corrupted’, and think that’s for the best, but to a child it might be a pain. Because the way of receiving completely differs depending on the child. For this reason education is difficult, and that’s why education is important. I think the relations with the teacher and their friends in the classroom are a very important thing to a person.

Fune wo Amu Anime

The teachers who pigeonhole children into a type are the worst. It’s not even good no matter how enthusiastic the teacher is. A teacher, who is able to stimulate the curiosity of as many as possible students a little, supplies small encouragements like “So that kind of story exists!” in their lessons. The lessons of a teacher with senses like that, will remain in your memories for a long time. I think that makes it an enjoyable lesson. Speaking of the Japanese language lessons I experienced, even in the lessons in which it seemed possible to freely speak your thoughts at a glance, there were also teachers who concluded “The way of reading this story is like this“, but the teachers who weren’t like that were the most fun. I felt like it gave me an impetus for reading stories outside the textbooks.

I think this also applies to working adults, but it’s important to start things spontaneously by yourself. The method of forcing someone to do things may have undesirable effects to the learning of that person.

Yes. I think it’s better to know than not knowing. Trying to do it rather than not doing anything. But, it can’t be helped to encourage children, who don’t want to do it, against their will. You probably will get to know a new world by reading rather than not reading. But I also wonder about what to do with people who are pained by reading and can’t stand it, even if they were advised to do it forcibly. Only when those people feel like they need something, I can give the knowledge and information which can help them in a casual manner.

We are raised with the curiosity and ability to think in which you can find the method of solving a situation by yourself. I wonder if that isn’t an important education to a human just like that? There are plenty of people who weren’t like that in middle school, but had come to love it after becoming an adult, right? I think there’s no need to be in a hurry. (End)

Interviewer: Sanseidou Publication Bureau Director Takimoto Takashi, Middle School Japanese Language Textbook Editorial Department.

Place: Sanseidou Main Office, Tokyo

Date of interview: February 13, 2013


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