Read to your teenagers to fight off SnapChat distractions, says top educator

2nd March 2016 at 11:02
books lying open
Instagram and SnapChat are sapping young people's attention spans, she warns

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Parents should read aloud to their teenage children in a bid to increase their concentration in an age where social media apps and other distractions are readily available, a leading educator has said.

Reading long, “demanding” books to their adolescent offspring would help to build up their “intellectual stamina”, Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, a top private school organization, said.

As concerns around shrinking attention spans grow due to the likes of Instagram and SnapChat, adults should help their children by reading the classics in an attempt to tackle the problem. 

It comes as national teacher union the NEA launches its 19th annual Read Across America day.   

Ms Fraser told TES in an interview: “These books are part of who we are, but they are also a test of intellectual stamina, it’s one of those things that’s a bit sad… when you look at some of the books set for GCSE English, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, the main reason they are there is they are incredibly short.

“The one thing I think parents can do – Victorian novels start slowly, they don’t get you into the plot on page one, so actually [they should] read aloud to children, right into their teenage [years]. I remember my husband reading The Moonstone to my daughters when they were 12 and 14 and they absolutely loved it, it’s a gripping tale.”

Ms Fraser, who is a former managing director of Penguin Books, said children were now used to being interrupted every eight seconds by social media of some form, and that even adults were suffering from the same problem.

“Somebody was talking about young employees having a very short attention span, and it’s good to develop a good attention span. There’s always work where you have to think for longer than eight seconds, quite a lot longer.

“It’s a counterbalance to that, it’s about building up intellectual stamina.”

“Parents can help by at least kicking them off, by helping them through those slow early chapters of the Victorian novel,” she added.

Last year, TES compiled the 100 works of fiction chosen by teachers that every teenager should read before leaving school. 

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