Once upon a time when I was working on a teacher training course in Norwich (UK) a group of trainers was spending a jolly summer evening in our shared kitchen-dining room in the university accommodation provided. Somehow the conversation wound around to the topic of graded readers and "Minnie" scoffed declaring them an abomination and would no sooner use them with her students than erotica. "Leo" was no less imperious in his view, his ego fuelled by the evening’s bonhomie and bruised by Minnie’s unequivocal stance. His mane shook as he roared at all gathered in his little kingdom, that as the author of several graded readers himself, she was a very foolish mouse. I don’t believe these were his exact words, but neither are these their exact names. Nevertheless, his mane was ruffled. The mouse roared back explaining that she didn’t realise she was in a conflict zone, let alone trying to win a battle. Minnie snatched her bottle of Pinot and retired to her mousehole.
The brouhaha that had unfolded in her kitchen, his kingdom, revolved around a misunderstanding. Had Leo and Minnie taken the time to clarify what they meant by Graded Readers, this tense standoff between two BNIFs (Big Name in Field) could have been avoided and I could have had another glass of Pinot. For Minnie, a graded reader is a simplified, condensed version of Defoe, Dickens, the Bronte sisters, et al. Her preference is to work with extracts of the original than with a bowdlerized whole. Leo was referring to his own oeuvre and that of all the others who have recently been commissioned by ELT publishers to write original novellas for learners of English.
Understanding another involves empathy, which requires the kind of similarity that we just do not have with lions, and that many people do not have with other human beings.