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Author Susan Hill Claims Poor Teaching is Resulting in Loathing of Books

According to an article featured on Telegraph.co.uk, author Susan Hill has claimed that students in the UK are taught “so badly, so dully and so mechanically” that many children are being turned off literature.

Hill, author of The Woman in Black, Strange Meeting and I’m the King of the Castle, has her most popular works featured in GCSE and A-level syllabuses and has said she receives desperate letters from students requesting help.

Says Hill:

“It saddens me greatly to think that my own novels may be taught so badly, so dully and so mechanically that they will contribute to this loathing of books. I have seen enough school essays and coursework to know that standards are lower than they were.”

I’m not sure that I entirely agree with Hill.  While teachers do play an important role, there are other factors involved. How about actually reading, for example?  A 2008 study in the UK showed that a  typical eight-year-old reads almost 16 books in a year but, by age 15 or 16, the number drops to just over three books per year. The same study also showed that after the first year at secondary school, the growing trend is towards reading comics, magazines, newspapers and online articles, and playing computer games, rather than reading traditional full-length novels .

Teachers can’t battle these trends on their own. They can do their best to impart a love of literature and the skills for comprehension but we all need to set an example. We need to encourage discussion of books as this leads to better comprehension. Perhaps rather than having a computer program read our preschooler a story, we could do it ourselves? Limiting computer time may not be popular with the teenage-set but time with a book would be time well-spent…and apparently very beneficial educationally.

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