UK ranks low on the reading for pleasure scale

As a nation, the United Kingdom could come top (or at least very near the top) of many tables, lists or polls. Perhaps we could win out for loving to talk about the very inconsistent weather, or for having a superhuman ability to withstand a great deal of waiting. Certainly, our homegrown authors frequently populate the polls when it comes to marking the greatest writers of all time; from Austen to Woolf, Shakespeare and Dickens to JK Rowling. However when it comes to reading rather than writing, it seems that we’re falling behind somewhat.

A recent report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development showed that school children in the UK rank considerably low when it comes to reading for pleasure, the country being placed 47th out of 65 nations in a table based on the percentage of students who read regularly for enjoyment. According to the PISA in Focus study which examines the results of assessment tests taken by students worldwide in 2009, just over 60% of students from the UK aged fifteen said that they read for pleasure, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines or comics. Emerging at the top were Kazakhstan, Albania, Shanghai-China and Thailand, where more than 90% of pupils of the same age reported reading for the sheer enjoyment of doing so. Not far behind are Indonesia and Peru, on 88% and 86% on the reading for pleasure scale respectively.

The low placement of the UK on the table translates to the country’s teenagers being below average compared to those from other developed countries when it comes to reading for pleasure – the average percentage of 15 year olds who read for fun for at least half-an-hour daily coming out at 63% in the OECD study. Overall, the figures mean that four in ten teens in the UK are not reading for their own personal enjoyment outside of the school gates – which totting up the total, works out at a rather concerning figure. Commenting on the report, Andreas Schleicher from the OECD’s education directorate said:

“Better readers not only perform well in school, they grow up to become adults who use their reading skills to make sense of the world around them and continue learning throughout their lives. But for many students around the world, that cycle appears to have broken.”

Debates could rage on for an age about the reasons why young people here are less attracted to reading than their counterparts from other countries or precisely how to go about raising the reading for pleasure figures, but certainly there is no shortage of great books around – both classic and contemporary – to get teenagers excited about reading. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement, as well as someone to share to the reading experience with, to find the reader within a young person. Our ever-growing work with young people has shown that once they begin, they do enjoy reading in their own time – and a significant number find life-changing benefit in it. Although, whether picking up a book is a simple pleasurable pastime or whether the words go much deeper, we hope that our Reading Revolution can reach and affect many more young people – and perhaps help bump that figure a little higher up the table…

Featured Poem: I Am a Parcel of Vain Strivings Tied by Henry David Thoreau

We’ve touched upon the somewhat strange and often perplexing but stimulating (and very pertinent, everything considered) subject of human nature with the last two poems featured. So far, we’ve encountered symbolism for human life on a fairly wide scale – with Keats’ ‘seasons’ charting its inevitable and necessary change – and last week, came across an isolated but quite important aspect of human nature: to metaphorically mask our shortcomings, vulnerabilities; for fortification or to appear more capable to the outside world than we really are when it’s called for. Just two examples of many; poets aren’t short on elaborate or otherwise seemingly simple symbols to stand for humanity as after all, isn’t that just what – at least in some respect – all poems are about? What we as humans are made of, or perhaps to put it in better terms, what it is that makes us who we are is a matter of endless speculation and a complex issue indeed; who knows whether we will ever settle the question for certain?

Though we could probably spend more time pondering than is really necessary (or maybe that’s the answer to what makes us human – a curious curiosity and quest to always know more than perhaps we should?), it is interesting to consider, even if we don’t get any resolute answers. As with things that are far more trivial, everyone is bound to have a different opinion on what they consider to be the defining element. The more logically-minded and scientific amongst us would likely put it down to basic (or actually really quite sophisticated) physiology, but that’s not it – as much of a marvel as the human body is, it doesn’t completely encapsulate the finer points of human experience. In a world that is increasingly image-conscious a case might be made for an arena where we can most easily display one of the most key human facets, that of free will…then again, neither do clothes maketh the man or woman. The strongest argument would be for the stuff that’s not just utter sentiment – our emotions, feelings and memories; no matter how apparently insignificant or of considerable implication indeed, all of what we feel surely comes closest to explaining who we are as individuals. What’s more, I would say that it’s the emotions that display our weaknesses and frailties rather than those we would be willing to shout about that truly show us to be human.

I came across this poem by Henry David Thoreau, with its various metaphors and emblems denoting human existence, a little while ago and think it ties in (excuse the pun) quite well with the discussion at hand. It’s perhaps the most apt way to describe us all, as individual ‘parcels’; a combination of many distinct and sometimes contradictory pieces, bundled perhaps somewhat haphazardly ‘by a chance bond together’ but still fixed by some unexplained law and existing, persisting above all that life insists upon relentlessly throwing at us. Perhaps the flower symbolism is a little overused but the use of larger metaphor and language is especially interesting; there’s lots of intriguing phrases to ponder over and which often come into conflict, showcasing to full effect the struggles and vain strivings of life (I confess to having initially misread the title as ‘I Am a Parcel of Vain Strings Tied’ – what exactly vain strings might be I’m not sure; maybe those shiny ones you use to wrap presents with). But the lines that strike me the most are those in the second to last stanza; that striking image of ‘life’s vase of glass’ – something that encases and surrounds but is incredibly delicate and at constant risk – and amongst the hard-going and tough times, the heartening presence of ‘a kind hand’ – showing that whatever it is that humanity consists of, it certainly contains more than enough good to outweigh bad.

I Am a Parcel of Vain Strivings Tied

I am a parcel of vain strivings tied
By a chance bond together,
Dangling this way and that, their links
Were made so loose and wide,
For milder weather.

A bunch of violets without their roots,
And sorrel intermixed,
Encircled by a wisp of straw
Once coiled about their shoots,
The law
By which I’m fixed.

A nosegay which Time clutched from out
Those fair Elysian fields,
With weeds and broken stems, in haste,
Doth make the rabble rout
That waste
The day he yields.

And here I bloom for a short hour unseen,
Drinking my juices up,
With no root in the land
To keep my branches green,
But stand
In a bare cup.

Some tender buds were left upon my stem
In mimicry of life,
But ah! the children will not know,
Till time has withered them,
The woe
With which they’re rife.

But now I see I was not plucked for naught,
And after in life’s vase
Of glass set while I might survive,
But by a kind hand brought
To a strange place.

That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours,
And by another year,
Such as God knows, with freer air,
More fruits and fairer flowers
Will bear,
While I droop here.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

From Me, to You, to Someone Else: The Secret Life of Second Hand Books

Second hand book stores are a veritable treasure trove for literature lovers and, in these financially difficult times, come as a saviour when the price tag of a shiny new book hits the pocket with a little too much force for many of our likings. Amongst the cavalcade of recycled and recovered stories tons of hidden gems are waiting to be discovered, surprises that you may never have even considered reading (or in fact never even knew existed) before, or that elusive novel you’ve been trying to track down for ages. Yet it’s not just the printed words that tell a tale; many passed-on books reveal entirely separate stories in the form of handwritten notes and dedications, creating a chain of previous owners and gift-givers, and imbuing the book with its own profound personal history.

Opening a book to discover it comes with a surprise scribbling might be an unexpected novelty for most of us but it became a regular occurrence for Wayne Gooderham, freelance writer and frequenter of second hand stores, so much so that he set up a blog dedicated to, well, dedications within books that have been cast-off. While reading through the collated written notes is certainly very entertaining, each of them is also enlightening in their own way. Wayne’s own fascination with finding annotations and asides has much to do with the extra layer of emotion that a personal dedication adds to a singular book. Each note, no matter how laconic or lengthy, humorous or heartfelt, is a visible thumbprint, a mark showing that the book has belonged not just physically, but emotionally to another person. More often than not, they also indicate that a book has been purchased and passed along for a specific purpose – and whether the reasons were well received or lessons learnt, we can but speculate (perhaps it’s not a good sign given that they have been given away by their dedicees).

There does seem to be something inherently sentimental about dedications, in any form but especially when it comes to books, the purchase of which is a decision loaded with many different factors (maybe that’s why the search for a book containing a special message is a plot device in at least two rom-com films I have seen in the past…). Amongst those on the Book Dedications blog there are certainly some which tug at the heart-strings, perhaps the best example not drenched in overt sentimentality but one containing clear emotion from a father to a son, who credits the book in question with being responsible for the son’s existence – a gift in more ways than one. Of course, there are plenty of far more frivolous instances too – including one which involves ‘naughty young ladies’ and ‘woolly bloomers’ (best to leave that one there) – and a straightforward but simply great ‘present, from me to me’ – which is often the best kind. Whatever they denote,  all demonstrate an indelible record of something vital that for us, all books contain – a connection between people. Whether the connection has been broken due to the relinquishing of the book, or whether the book has strengthened the bond between two people and it has been passed on in hope of doing the same for someone else, the various dedications are testament to the importance of literature in our lives. And reveal the multiple lives literature possesses…

Wayne has another literary blog, Three Score and Ten, which we have previously featured.

Featured Poem: We Wear The Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Today – 10th October – is a very significant date in the calendar. Every year on 10th October, World Mental Health Day is observed. The initiative, held for the first time in 1992, was conceived to raise global awareness of mental health issues, as well as pointing towards the need to increase access to and investment in prevention and treatment services (an aspect of even more importance this year, given the 2011 theme of World Mental Health Day: ‘The Great Push: Investing in Mental Health’). In the last 19 years, since the prevalence of mental health conditions has unfortunately continued to increase – it can sometimes be easy to overlook the staggering statistic that 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental health problem over the course of one year – an up-side is that year upon year World Mental Health Day has too become a much bigger event; now people in over 100 countries commemorate the day, taking considered notice of their personal mental health and that of others. Needless to say, mental health is of great significance to us at The Reader Organisation, as we constantly affirm and strengthen the links between shared reading, literature and positive mental health; showing that reading is an alternative but effective medicine for the mind which doesn’t just offer occupation and distraction but also gives a vital and clear space to think and reflect – and today is an ideal time to do just that.

Another of the main aims of World Mental Health Day is to encourage greater and more open discussion upon mental health issues, and as well, all year round there are numerous campaigns that let people know that it’s perfectly fine to open up (just as it’s also entirely reasonable not to – being entirely up to the individual) because more often than not, there will be a willing and empathetic ear on the other side to listen. Yet while it’s fantastic that we can keep breaking down barriers, some still remain and they are the ones that can be the hardest and most cumbersome to remove; the ones that we construct ourselves. Recently – though it’s most definitely not a new phenomenon – there’s been increased talk about and identification of ‘smiling depression’, whereby an optimistic outward appearance conceals the more complex feelings under the surface that can be far harder to present to the world. Whether or not we consider ourselves to have a notable mental health condition, the notion of ‘putting on a brave face’ is a universal and inherently human thing to do – a shield to protect ourselves from life’s knocks, a mask (or indeed, a variety of them) to wear when things are just that bit too unbearable; to lie a little, yes, but predominately to see things through without shattering.

We’ve all been wearing masks for quite some time – mainly as a means of survival and self-preservation. Certainly, this was purpose of the mask Paul Laurence Dunbar wore and wrote about in 1896 – although of course, it was done so to face quite different circumstances than today, namely that of deep racial prejudice and oppression. Still, we are able to align the analogy with life today and any number of individual situations – including that of ‘masking’ our mental health. Having to rather than choosing to wear the mask – and understandably given the social climate of the time – makes Dunbar’s attitude towards it negative; it is deceitful as opposed to merely a method of defence, places in irremovable shadow rather than offering temporary shelter. Most notably, it is worn as a requirement to meet a world that is physically and emotionally hardened and costs its wearer dearly, in the form of a ‘debt’. Thankfully, we can take a more positive view now and find a balance – using our mask when we need to but also, in a world that may not by any means be perfect but is progressing in acceptance and understanding, obtain the courage in others – and ourselves – to allow it to slip and portray ourselves precisely as we are.

We Wear The Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To Thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

Children’s books rule the roost…and offer a retreat to grown-up readers

This week (from October 3rd-9th) is Children’s Book Week, an annual event aimed at encouraging and celebrating reading for pleasure amongst children of primary school age. Across the country, there’ll be tons of events happening to create excitement, enthusiasm and an appetite for exploring the world of literature in children, but ensuring that kids keep up the habit of reading is a matter of importance all year round. Thankfully, there are so many wonderful children’s books available – with hundreds upon thousands of more pages being published every week – that the task is a relatively simple one and much less arduous than many, having lots of fun in store for kids aged 8-80 (and beyond…)

Certainly, if sales are anything to go by, then children’s literature is well and truly ruling the roost in the UK book market. Figures from Nielsen BookScan presented at last week’s Bookseller Children’s Conference provided a lot to smile about; in the first half of 2011 up to July the sales of children’s books outperformed all others, overall sales coming out at a staggering £143 million. Pre-school books/picture books and children’s general non-fiction performed particularly well, with both categories upping their sales by 6% from the previous year. It appears that in the time of recession, children’s reading is prioritised by many parents; a particular point of interest being that a select group of older books are the ones being bought in their multitudes.

But it’s not just kids who are ravenously reading the books that are designed for them; just as a dog is for life and not just for Christmas, children’s literature is finding an increasingly comfortable home in the hands – and hearts – of many adult readers. And it would seem that not only are the more grown-up amongst us reading children’s books simply for pleasure but are doing so to revisit the far simpler pleasures of days long past. According to new research, adults are attracted to reading many of the children’s classics as they offer a vivid picture of what has been lost for a lot of people in this frantic modern life – or as, author of the research Dr Louise Joy suggests, because they represent a “symbolic retreat from the disappointment of reality” (as perhaps, all books do in some form…?). It appears such books don’t just provide us with boundless wonder, fantasy and adventure that can be enjoyed at any age but also give us guides for living a happy, humble and fulfilling life, whether it be in the area of self-awareness and self-perception (Alice In Wonderland; several books of Roald Dahl; Wind in The Willows), relationships with others (Winnie The Pooh)…or even just appreciating the goodness of a hearty meal (The Hobbit). More in-depth and insightful information will be revealed by Dr Joy in a forthcoming book, Literature’s Children, and her findings will be presented at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which will be taking place later this month.

Whatever you’re looking to get out of reading a piece of children’s literature – be it solace, escapism, a reminder of the comfort and cosiness of childhood past or just sheer enjoyment – such news surely comes as solid proof that you’re never too old to read something supposedly just for kids.

Featured Poem: The Human Seasons by John Keats

Last week, with the help of John Clare, we extolled in the joys of Autumn – of which there are many – at the season’s prologue…although, there seems to have been a temporary turning back; a retreat as though, like a caterpillar waiting to emerge from its chrysalis, Autumn isn’t quite ready to materialise in all its glory (though no doubt by the time this post is published the late burst of summer will have wilted away and autumnal effects will be in full force once more). However delayed its ‘proper’ start will eventually be at least we’re now in the right frame of mind to bring out the best of the season instead of pondering too much upon the darker, duskier side (I have to say, anyone who has ever viewed Autumn as a gloomy, ponderous time has never had the pleasure of looking out amongst an arching of autumnal-tinted trees, standing tall and marvellous – and certainly a sight which makes even being stuck in a weekend traffic jam enjoyable).

Whichever one we’re in, there’s no mistaking the fact that the seasons are incredibly important to us. They certainly are to poets and authors, the reliable but somehow ever surprising variations they provide giving a point of inspiration both immediately identifiable and on several plains of existence. And also, for us mere mortals, the four seasons are useful markers for not just the patterns of predictable change (if that’s not too much of an oxymoron) but can often coincide with the more significant stages of our lives, arriving almost on a whim but aligning with the longer term. Once more, in using seasonal symbols to draw parallels with an individual’s lifespan, Autumn gets something of a raw deal. Whilst Spring is full of energetic play tempered with innocence and Summer a perfect fit with the excitement and headiness of youth, by the time one arrives at their personal Autumn the pace is slowed somewhat – and the drawing on of time, rather than the performance of anything especially dynamic, looms large as a preoccupation.

Always wanting to go against the grain of what’s conventional here at TRO (and especially as we’ve encountered many people in the autumn of life who still have more than their – and others’ – fair share of verve and vigour), I’d be inclined to look at things a little differently (also because I have my own personal predilection for the season). Rather than being a preface to a conclusion, a final flourish before an inevitable decline, the visible and vibrant changes that accompany Autumn reveal a renewal and re-emergence of the spirit; the autumnal gusts bringing forth a second wind in more ways than one. The French author Albert Camus put it in particularly fitting terms when he said that “Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower”, something vital to remember if you’re approaching (or have already approached) that later stage in life; not to fret or regret about chances passed but instead to shed your skin – metaphorically – along with the falling leaves and gain a new lease of life. Taking another view of the autumn of life is John Keats, who writes wonderfully about the four Human Seasons. For Keats, autumn is the season of the soul – thought rather than action being at the forefront of his observation of all the seasons – with a very clear sense of contentment, peacefulness and also a strong, assured sense of self appearing above all else. Unfortunately, Keats did not get the opportunity to see in his own autumn but he certainly had more than enough soul to be able to envisage it in its multi-faceted forms.

The Human Seasons

Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
Spring’s honied cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness–to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.

John Keats (1795-1821)

Time to turn off the TV and get kids into reading

For many a frazzled and tight-on-time parent, the small black box (or sleek silver 42 inch plasma) in the corner of the sitting room is a God-send, reliably there to switch on whenever tiny tots need to be amused or quieted for half-an-hour before teatime. Yet over time, the minutes pile up and too much reliance on reaching for the remote can have unfortunate effects on children – and their relationships with parents.

American researchers have discovered that television can be a distraction not just for kids but for adults too, whether it is being actively watched or is featuring mainly as background noise. In particular the presence of the turned-on television has a considerable negative impact upon the flow of interaction between parent and child, which in turn has stark consequences for the development of children’s speech. Amongst a study of over 300 children aged between two months and four years, parents were found to have spoken significantly less to their children while the television was on; every hour of TV exposure translating to a loss of 500-1,000 words. Children who watched increasing amounts of television also said less and had fewer conversations with their parents – having an alarming impact on the progress of speech and social skills.

Conversely, regular reading sessions at home have been proven to have quite the opposite effect on child development as well as parent-child communication. In a separate study at Ohio State University it was found that while more time spent watching TV links with a decreased amount of communication between mother and child, mothers who read together with their children converse more and do so in a particularly distinctive way. When reading aloud to their children, mothers were found to use an active and engaging communication style which encouraged responsiveness from children, thereby stimulating greater amounts of conversation. Parents who read aloud also help to expand their children’s vocabulary by introducing them to words that may not be typically heard by children in everyday speech. One of the researchers leading the study, Eric Rasmussen said:

“Mothers who are responsive to their infant’s communication promote a positive self-perception for the child as well as fostering trust in the parent. Positive responses help the child learn that they can affect their environment.”

Yet more evidence that shared reading really does make a difference in a number of ways – and the earlier it begins the better…! Although, you may want to start with physical, pliable books before involving the Kindle or iPad, given that personal contact is privileged over excessive technological stimulation in the early years…

Featured Poem: A Broken Appointment by Thomas Hardy

I don’t know how far people believe in the concept of dualism – for every good there is a corresponding bad, for every right a wrong, each soaring sky-high being inevitably matched by a sinking slump. Perhaps the various oppositions don’t have to be quite so extreme but, certainly, there seems to be a fair bit of sense in it. So in the interests of balance, following on from last week’s literary-flavoured love-fest and en-masse adoration, we will tip the scale to its other end and show the other side of the coin – where life is not a bed of roses (or any other type of flower/classic romantic cliché), partners don’t always fall in step with each other and even the most industrial strength iron locks can fall foul of fire, flood or, more fearful than any force of nature, the wrath of a wronged or rejected lover.

Around the same time of the grand opening of the Museum of Liverpool another altogether different exhibition was being prepared for public show in London, detailing one very specific and rather sensitive side of life. Spreading out from its base in Zagreb, Croatia, the Museum of Broken Relationships is travelling the world. Unfortunately its temporary home in Covent Garden closed a couple of weeks ago, but for the length of a brief affair (before it went awry) visitors could gape at a vast array of sentimental and strange artefacts, each a mark of connections once strong but now severed, each a symbol of love in its many forms, lost and lamented – from a torn up letter encased in smashed glass to a battered and broken garden gnome, an innocent caught in the crossfire of a lovers’ battleground. Though certainly intriguing, opening windows on such intensely personal parts of people’s lives – and in particular, exposing the wounds – threatens to be more than just a tad voyeuristic. However, all items are willingly donated – many are displayed anonymously to spare any intrusiveness – and according to its curators, the museum is not a place of pain, screamed words and splintered hearts but of cleansing and catharsis; a therapeutic purge of passion.

Few other forms showcase the end of love alongside its beginnings and being as well as literature does – indeed, many of the most classic poems are paeans to the more sour aspects of affairs of the heart, whether they be unrequited, unresolved or incompatible. Amongst the items in the Museum of Broken Relationships is a copy of Proust’s aptly titled Remembrance of Things Past, donated by a man who read it aloud to his former wife on a beach during their relationship (with grains of sand still found amongst the pages). Undoubtedly there are many other pieces of literature, on public display or kept privately in the heart, linked with love and its losses; infused with the memorable moments of each romantic encounter, happy or ultimately sad. However, love is not reserved only for the domain of relationships and it is often the case that something can be ‘broken’ before it ever had the chance to begin; frequently these are the instances which sting more than relationships shattered beyond all repair. It was the poet John Greenleaf Whittier who uttered the immortal words “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are those ‘It might have been’”. Thomas Hardy might wholeheartedly agree, although I would judge that Hardy’s words of pen are even sadder, though simultaneously beautiful and ones which could go some way to helping paper over the cracks of many a broken heart.

A Broken Appointment

You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb,—
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.

You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
–I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Texts and tweets: Poetry for the next generation?

Whilst browsing my daily newspaper a few weeks ago, I was somewhat shocked to come across a story outlining the reading habits of some members of the younger generation. Displaying the results of a recent survey by the National Literacy Trust, it made less than encouraging reading. The most astounding fact whacked me right at the beginning; it stated that none other than text messages are the main source of reading material for children outside of the classroom, with nearly 60% of the 18,000 eight to seventeen year olds questioned saying they read texts on a regular basis. In comparison, just over 45% picked up a work of fiction to read at least once a month rather than their phone. Consequently, the survey also found that the children who read text messages more regularly as opposed to novels are twice as likely to have a below average reading ability compared to their fiction-reading counterparts.

But, aside from the sadness I felt about a sizeable proportion of children missing out on the wonderful reading adventures I had as a child, perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on texting. The medium has had its fair share of unnecessarily bad press, especially of late, and surely any starting point on the road to reading for children, no matter how seemingly rudimentary, is a good one. Last week a very important person in the world of poetry – the Poet Laureate, no less – stepped forward to defend the literary credentials of the text message, tweet or Facebook status.

Launching Anthologise, a new initiative in secondary schools which invites pupils to put together their own poetry anthologies and is designed to get them engaging with and reading more poetry, Carol Ann Duffy said that diverse and adapted ways of using language, such as is evident in text messages and on Twitter, can contribute greatly to poetic feeling, imbuing the various methods of technology with a greater depth than may previously have been considered. As well as that, the frequent composition of texts may even go on to encourage young people to become part of the next generation of trendsetting poets. Calling poems ‘the original text’, Duffy said about poetry:

“It’s a perfecting of a feeling in language – it’s a way of saying more with less, just as texting is. We’ve got to realise that the Facebook generation is the future – and, oddly enough, poetry is the perfect form for them. It’s a kind of time capsule – it allows feelings and ideas to travel big distances in a very condensed form.” 

So, far from being something to despair about, perhaps the proliferation of text messages is positive, sparking off creativity and encouraging an appetite for and greater comprehension of poetry amongst children and young people. Or maybe that’s jumping to an opposing set of conclusions…? We’re always happy to hear about any methods that will get the younger generation engaged with reading – the more inventive, the better – but we’d still hope that at least every now and then, texts will be swapped for Tennyson, SMS for sonnets and Facebook for Frost.