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Children are losing interest in traditional storytelling as overexposure to games consoles, iPads and 3D films saps their imagination, a leading headmistress has warned and ‘too distracted by technology to listen to stories’

As a former Deputy Head and Mum of two “screenagers” and a bit of a Twitterholic myself, I know first hand how engrossing and fascinating technology can be. But I also know how important  listening and reading stories are too.

You, like me probably remember Bernard Cribbins simply sitting in the big armchair  and just reading a story using his many voices to enthral and captivate your imagination.

But just watch Kenneth Williams in action reading “The Dribblesome Teapots” to see how stories can really come to life so easily.

I bet you also remember being read to at school and  by your Mum and Dad at bedtime too ?

Sadly this is becoming a thing of the past for many children so I welcome Tricia Kelleher’s initiative to re introduce traditional story telling in her school.

Many pupils struggle to read in silence or listen to stories because they are growing up in a world containing “endless distractions”

Tricia Kelleher, principal of the Stephen Perse Foundation, a group of independent schools in Cambridge, said that a love of reading could boost children’s concentration levels and promote “deep thinking”. But she said it was getting harder to get children to appreciate the benefits of books “when there are so many other things to fill their time”.

The comments came as the foundation’s junior school – for children up the age of 11 – prepares to launch a renewed drive to promote traditional storytelling across the curriculum.

It has revamped its library and introduced a Jackanory-style “storytelling space” to encourage teachers, librarians and visiting authors to read aloud to young children.

Data published last year by the National Literacy Trust showed that just 3-in-10 children aged 8 to 16 read every day in their own time

Tricia Kelleher said children were “growing up in a world that’s filled with white noise”.

“There are endless distractions in their lives and it is getting harder to make them feel that reading is a pleasurable thing to do,” she said.

“There has been the development of an approach to learning that can be a bit butterfly like; they flutter from one thing to another and another. I think that when children are young you have to help them to concentrate on something that requires deeper thinking.”

She added: “My sense is that the world of film, in particular, leaves nothing to the imagination. If you think of Avatar and those kinds of extraordinary 3D films, it is almost as if we give so much scaffolding to a child that they don’t actually have to use their imagination.

“Whereas if you actually ask them to read a book, it is all about how they see the characters themselves. They create their own world rather than have one imposed on them.”

Miss Kelleher said that some of the most popular books read at the junior school included those by C S Lewis, Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, J K Rowling and Anthony Horowitz. The new storytelling facilities will be opened at the start of the new term in September.

Miss Kelleher said: “I grew up in the age of Jackanory, when we sat down in front of the television and watched someone else telling a story. It’s not something that I think would be an easy sell to children now.

“We are trying to create a 21st century version of that world. It is showing that we value that world of the story.”


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