From the forums

10th February 2012 at 00:00

Children can't concentrate enough for Dickens

Biographer Claire Tomalin said that today's youngsters are unable to read his work on account of their poor attention span and diet of "dreadful television programmes"

A pity, because Dickens is delightful but unsurprising - although one 10-year-old I know is "studying" Jane Eyre in Year 6. Most adults would struggle with Dickens, though. Or Jane Eyre, for that matter.


Is the multimedia approach encouraging quick, high-intensity joy at the expense of the slow-burn and gradual wonder of a fantastic novel? Are too many asinine US films, reliant on simple storylines, action and special effects replacing the brilliance of a good story?


It's an amalgamation of reasons - not merely the "soundbite" media children are used to, but also that fewer have been brought up with reading as their principal entertainment. Too many children have had very little time spent reading with a parent, or on their own thereafter.


I think it takes a while for children to realise how much depth there can be in a story if you give it your full attention rather than one eye on the TV, one on Facebook and holding a conversation at the same time. Having said that, I can't stand Dickens and I'm currently watching TV and typing this, so who am I to talk?


It's nothing to do with inability to concentrate. Kids read the long (yawn) Harry Potters without any difficulty. Dickens has very complex sentence structure and vocabulary and very long paragraphs, which children are not taught how to read. J.K. Rowling doesn't.


I'm not sure I think it's all that big a deal if someone hasn't read Dickens. I'm much more bothered that they lack the necessary reading skills and couldn't even if they wanted to.


I hated Dickens at school. None of it was ever explained properly. We had a set book every bloody year from age 11, until it became utterly detested. I read constantly and have even been known to dip into some of the classics, but not Dickens as I have been turned off for life.


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