Interviewed at the Hay Literary Festival, Dame Jacqueline Wilson wonders are people losing ‘reading stamina?’
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s This Cultural Life, prolific children’s author Wilson is concerned that children’s books are now too simple.
“A lot of children’s books that are good and popular are quite slight. You can read them quite quickly. There’s no real depth to them. I don’t think that hurts at all, but I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to develop reading stamina. It’s not always instant gratification. I think you have to get it across to children.”
It’s a familiar complaint that TV, devices and games are shortening the attention span of younger generations.
“Children are so used to watching things they like to watch and if they’re at all bored, they will flip to something else…”
As a reader of all kinds of books in childhood, Wilson wants children to stick with books rather than move on after a couple of pages.
Growing up myself with Dumas, Stephenson, Defoe, Burroughs, and Tolkien, I understand Wilson’s viewpoint. I also understand not everyone is a book-nerd like us. But it raises interesting questions. My generation had no Internet, only four TV channels and a video game of ping-pong that wouldn’t challenge a sloth.
Are all these new content types opportunities or distractions? Is this just a generational thing? The old folks complaining about the young ‘uns?
More relevant, how do we engender a love of books at an early age?
Harry Potter broke the mould of children’s literature, but that was more than twenty years ago. Teaching in primary schools, there certainly appears to be an attention deficit. So are people losing ‘reading stamina?’