Then & Now: Brought to book

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The Independent Online
1854: Charles Dickens' infamous pedagogue, Thomas Gradgrind ('Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts'), wonders in 'Hard Times' at workers' reading preferences:

There was a library in Coketown, to which general access was easy. Mr Gradgrind greatly tormented his mind about what the people read in this library . . . It was a disheartening circumstance, but a melancholy fact, that even these readers persisted in wondering. They wondered about human nature, human passions, human hopes and fears, the struggles, triumphs and defeats, the cares and joys and sorrows, the lives and deaths, of common men and women] They sometimes, after fifteen hours' work, sat down to read mere fables about men and women, more or less like themselves, and about children, more or less like their own. They took De Foe to their bosoms, instead of Euclid, and seemed to be on the whole more comforted by Goldsmith than by Cocker (17th-century mathematician). Mr Gradgrind was for ever working, in print and out of print, at this eccentric sum, and he never could make out how it yielded this unaccountable product.

23 July 1992: The National Foundation for Educational Research says that children with television sets in their rooms are far less likely to be good readers. 75 per cent of children enjoyed reading very much while 90 per cent enjoyed watching television. Only 55 per cent enjoyed writing.