Extreme Reading

A close shave?

This year at Green Oasis we did not have any fancy dress for Book Week. Instead we had “bonkers hats”, door decorating (with a literary theme), Sarah Brennan and the “extreme reading” photos. I thought that the idea of a very silly selfie, taken while you were reading a book, was an amusing idea and hence the ghastly picture of yours truly reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother while shaving. I am not sure that Amy Chua would have approved. In fact, I am pretty certain that she would never have allowed Lulu and Sophia, her pressure-cooked daughters, to do anything as self-indulgent or as time-wasting as reading a book for fun.

Sarah Brennan also gave a talk (yes, well, it was more like a lecture) to the students in Years 5 and 7. It was supposed to be about how to become a great writer; in reality, it was a bit of a tirade against computer games, social media and mobile phones. Although I found what she had to say quite interesting - and certainly she does seem to know quite a lot about this subject – most of what Sarah Brennan said went way over the heads of most (maybe all) of the Year 5 students. Her main argument was that although these electronic gizmos might be okay for grown-ups, constant exposure to screens of different sizes will turn your child’s brain to jelly. Steve Jobs never allowed his children near a computer and Sarah Brennan quoted one study after another by paediatricians or by child psychologists to prove that an iPad will destroy your little darling’s ability to think, rot their powers of expression and extinguish all social skills.

In some ways, her harangue rather reminded me of Roald Dahl’s acerbic verses about the impact of television on children:
The most important thing we’ve learned
As far as children are concerned
Is never, never, never let
Them near your television set.
In fact, what’s better: do not install
The idiotic thing at all.

Has the advent of television led to the demise of the written word? Are all children watching TV all day, instead of reading books? Well, maybe some of them are. So is Sarah Brennan right to suggest that mobile phones and Facebook are even more addictive and therefore more harmful? Perhaps. Mobile phones are not allowed in the primary school at Green Oasis, but the secondary students wander about like zombies with their mobiles at break-times or else they are to be found in odd corners, hunched over their little screens. An iPhone is the opium of the teenager.


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