14 2 mins 10 yrs

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens knew how to craft a sentence that grabbed your attention. The problem is that these days, despite our alleged soaring levels of academic qualification, young people don’t know how to even read such great literature;

CHILDREN do not have the concentration to read a Dickens novel, a leading writer claimed yesterday.As the country prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth, Claire Tomalin, acclaimed biographer of Dickens, said: “Very simply, he is, after Shakespeare, the greatest creator of characters in English.” And she decried the state of modern teaching for ill-equipping children with the attention span required to read his classic, but lengthy, books. “Today’s children have very short attention spans because they are being reared on dreadful television pro grammes which are flickering away in the corner,” she said. “Children are not being educated to have prolonged attention spans and you have to be prepared to read steadily for a Dickens novel, and I think that’s a pity.”

I would also put Dickens right up there, along with Orwell and De Vere and I DO think she has a point. As a youngster, I devoured Dickens – from David Copperfield to Oliver Twist, from Great Expectations to The Pickwick Papers. The plots were great, the language was fascinating and it was so easy to engage with it. Galloping through Dickens rich and often dark landscapes was a simple joy – but I suppose that was before MTV and the Playbox.

It’s a great shame that so many of our children do not have the capacity to enrich their lives by reading the works of Charles Dickens.

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]

14 thoughts on “THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES

  1. I know lots of young kids who have read Dickens, the other classics, and Harry Potter, and have had the focus to understand them well.

    But I don’t doubt that some who grew up multitasking and video gaming could not keep the focus to follow the unraveling of a plot in a long book. Pity.

    On a recent visit to London, I stopped by St Lukes Church in Chelsea.

    It is a lovely old Anglican Church, of a design that was intentionally antique, even for its day. I listened to them singing at evensong.

    Charles Dickens was married there.

  2. I love to read, one of the first things we did when we started homeschooling our kids was to make sure the programs we used covered all the old classics, and we’ve been very lucky my girls love to read.

    I do feel sorry for my eldest, she has spent a large part of her free time reading whatever I happen to be digesting. Her first of mine that she read through on her own was a collection of the original strand magazines Sherlock Holmes, and then the Return of Sherlock Holmes Series, I have a really neat set bound and all the original drawings are included, but she has been stuck on mystery, spy novels, and batman…lol

  3. The proper setting for reading is quiet and a proper chair.

    Give these to some of the kids, and I bet they’ll read just fine.

  4. Another problem is that the English language – especially British English – has changed so much in recent years. I was recently going to get my guys to read the William books or Enid Blyton, but immediately saw that the dialogue language was that of a world totally alien to them, in a way that even the abstruse medievalisms of Harry Potter are not. Nothing dates a novel as much as the dialogues, and the world is fast moving towards a time when the patois of Victorian England, or even Britain between the wars, will be incomprehensible to everyone except a few academics and history buffs.

    I’m still going to give it a try with what is surely the best boy’s book of all time: Treasure Island by RLS.

  5. Noel Cunningham –

    I’m not sure that it will be incomprehensible to anyone with a reasonable grasp of English.

    There are a few thigs going on here. It’s been noted that attention spans in this modern, fizzing, electronic world are becoming shorter. In this regard the TV is poison to a young mind. There are children out there who are becoming literal mental defectives because of the electronic babysitter in the corner of the room.

    Another is that even for those who can read and like reading, you sometimes have to ‘tune in’ to the language and flow of an older author like Dickens. Most of his novels were published in monthly instalments. In effect, they were written, monthly soaps to keep the audience hooked for the next chapter. This gives them a certain flow and is much different from an airport blockbuster.

  6. TV has been around for a long time now.

    It’s now all the stuff attached to the TV ( XBox, Wii ), and all the social networking ( the most pernicious thing )as attached to the PC and mobile devices.

    Plus the crack cocaine of texting.

    Watch how many adults and children who can’t sit for a short lunch without checking a device. WTF?

  7. Reading is so important, for the young and the old. I have in the last few years gone back to Dickens for Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities and loved both.

  8. Plus the crack cocaine of texting.

    I quite like that one – and it’s actually true!

  9. I’m on my third reading of Far From the Madding Crowd.Love Hardy. I’m also a fan of Dickens. When my son was younger there used to be ‘classics for children’. They were a good introduction to some wonderful stories; Tale of Two Cities, kidnapped and so on.He went on to become a big fan of C.S.Lewis and Tolkien.

  10. “I love to read, one of the first things we did when we started homeschooling our kids was to make sure the programs we used covered all the old classics, and we’ve been very lucky my girls love to read.

    I do feel sorry for my eldest, she has spent a large part of her free time reading whatever I happen to be digesting. Her first of mine that she read through on her own was a collection of the original strand magazines Sherlock Holmes, and then the Return of Sherlock Holmes Series, I have a really neat set bound and all the original drawings are included, but she has been stuck on mystery, spy novels, and batman…lol”

    Ain’t this Mama Grizzly’s writing??

  11. Noel,
    I still read William books occasionally. Sad ain’t it? Of course I don’t laugh as much as I once did, but I think William was a great creation.
    Children are missing out so much now, because those classics weren’t only entertaining, they were humanising. You learnt about kindness and courage, sharing and coping, good people and bad.
    What do they learn from Grand Theft Auto or Doom?

  12. Phantom,

    “I know lots of young kids who have read Dickens, the other classics, and Harry Potter, and have had the focus to understand them well.
    But I don’t doubt that some who grew up multitasking and video gaming could not keep the focus to follow the unraveling of a plot in a long book. Pity.”

    It’s hardly mutually exclusive. Many of the kids who read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are the same kids who play video games and watch TV and also watch and play sports.

  13. My nieces and nephews have turned out to be good readers despite the age they live in. My kids are too little at the moment but they are read to every night by my wife (or me if I make it home early) and i hope it serves to interest them in reading when the time comes. It did with me.

Comments are closed.