“Reading books can make modern children feel “stupid”, the author of How to Train Your Dragon has claimed.” (Article by Will Bolton from the Daily Telegraph 8 October 2022)
“Award-winning author Cressida Cowell said television and computer games have made children “more visual” than when she was young.”
“Ms Cowell is most well known for her best-selling book series, How to Train Your Dragon, which subsequently became an award-winning franchise adapted for the screen by DreamWorks. As of 2015, the series has sold more than seven million copies around the world.
“She warned that young people who suffer from dyslexia and are used to watching TV may be put off reading books because they make them feel stupid.
“‘How on earth can you love something that makes you feel stupid?’ she added.
“The 56-year-old former children’s laureate described TV as ‘incessant’ and effortless to watch, while books can be associated with school and make youngsters feel stupid. Writing in Teach Primary magazine, the author said: ‘Making a book that a child of today will read with the same amount of pleasure that I read books with when I was a kid is rather trickier than it sounds.
“‘When I was a child, the telly was terrible. There was no internet, no PlayStation. Now the telly is glorious and incessant, and it is magically ‘beamed’ into children’s heads without them having to do anything, whereas books can become associated with school and hard work, but if a child has dyslexia, it can be worse than that. In that case, books can sometimes come to represent something that actively makes the child feel stupid, and how on earth can you love something that makes you feel stupid?”
I have several grandchildren who are avid readers in spite of the availability of television and iPads. Given a choice between watching television and reading a book, they will choose the book. For them, books are associated with school, learning and growing up. For them, school isn’t ‘hard work’. It’s about discovering ideas and maturing. They don’t feel stupid reading a book. They see the grown-ups around them reading books and they feel clever. Where did Ms Cowell get the idea that reading a book makes a child feel stupid?
For me the issue is not children, it’s the parents. Do the parents set an example by their own reading and by reading to the child art an early age. Parents can also help the child select books that will interest them, and they can set limits on video games and TV.
The article concludes, “Ofcom estimates that three-to-four-year-olds spend an average of three hours a day watching screens. Children’s screen time is thought to have increased significantly during the pandemic when home schooling and Zoom calls became common. A recent study by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that children who spend less than an hour on iPads and other gadgets each day are likely to develop better brains than their peers. Children who were on electronics for less than an hour a day were significantly better at remembering information, controlling impulses and had greater overall executive function.”