Leading article: Book club

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The Independent Online

New research from the National Foundation for Educational Research makes for some pleasing reading. It finds that, for the first time in several years, watching television is declining in popularity among the nation's nine- to 11-year-olds, while spending time with a book is on the increase.

In a survey of 4,500 children, 55 per cent said they preferred watching television to reading. But this is down from 62 per cent in a similar survey four years ago.

The reasons are not immediately obvious. Perhaps it is the "Harry Potter effect". Some have suggested that recent attempts by the Government and teachers to inject more creativity into the school curriculum are paying off. But, regardless of the reason, the fact that reading seems to be making something of a comeback among children can only be a source of encouragement.

Children in this country get a very bad press, something that is often more a function of the guilt, anxiety and nostalgia of adults rather than anything to do with the behaviour of young people. Barely a day passes without a breathless scare story about how the younger generation is going to ruin: children are having sex too early; they eat only junk food; they are using drugs; they are getting drunk; they are failing academically; all they do is watch television...

This is not to argue that matters such as obesity and drug abuse are not serious. They are and deserve to be taken seriously. But sometimes it is as well to acknowledge a piece of news which shows that modern childhood is not quite the ignorant hellhole that many adults assume it to be.

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