Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth. Here's a cute little video about his...um...rather strange...life.
Do you read Dickens? Do you have a favourite? Mine's The Pickwick Papers. So funny.
This year I'll be introducing Jemimah to Dickens as part of AO5. We'll be reading Oliver Twist in Term 2, and A Christmas Carol in December. I'm sure she'll love them because they're her sort of humour. She loves caricature-like characters like Basil Fawlty, who are larger than life with exaggerated features and characteristics. This is so Dickensian.
Claire Tomalin, the author of the recent biography, Charles Dickens: A Life, has caused a bit of a furore this week by saying that although Dickens' novels, with their depiction of unfair society, were still "amazingly relevant", current education methods did not allow children to develop the concentration and attention span required to read his classic, but lengthy, books. Teachers, of course, have disagreed, but I'm afraid I think she's right. Have a read of both and see what you think.
The idea of a short attention span arising as a consequence, not only of television, but also of social media - twitter, Facebook, Google+ and even blogging is the introductory premise of Alan Jacob's book, The Pleasures of Reading in the Age of Distraction. He says:
I find myself particularly intrigued by the younger generation who have heard their cohort called "The Dumbest Generation," who are continually told that their addiction to multiple simultaneous stimuli renders them incapable of the seriously focused and single-minded attention that the reading of big thick books requires...Told over and over that they can't read, they begin to wonder why they should even try...I have heard talk like this from people up to forty and in a few cases older. Many say that they used to be able to read but since becoming habituated to online reading and the short bursts of attention it encourages - or demands - simply can't sit down with a book anymore. They fidget; they check their iPhones for email and twitter updates...Sound familiar?
What about you? Has your attention span diminished since you started spending much of your life online? What about your children? Could they concentrate well enough to read Dickens? Could you?
I think Jemimah can, but I really don't know. I'll let you know later this year!
In case your attention span has diminished so much that you can no longer read Alan Jacob's book, here's a Vimeo video of him talking about The Pleasures of Reading in the Age of Distraction. Enjoy.