These days, it’s games consoles and the Internet to blame. But in 1956, there was just as big a threat to children enjoying a good book.

Children at the Rift House Junior Mixed School prizegiving.
Children at the Rift House Junior Mixed School prizegiving.

It may have been a sign of the times today. In fact it was 1956.

Back then, Miss AH Gunson knew a thing or two of the perils facing modern day children.

More of the children receiving prizes.

More of the children receiving prizes.

She was worried. The children of Hartlepool were facing a whole host of distractions which were taking them away from that great pastime of reading.

She gave the address to the annual speech day at Rift House Junior Mixed School and told how radio, television and going to the cinema were all getting in the way of a good book.

Miss Gunson presented the prizes at that open day and said that, when she was young, she lived in the country and had little to do except knit, sew or read. She most enjoyed reading.

But she told the gathered Rift House audience in 1956: “I am anxious about children nowadays as they have got wireless, television and go to the pictures sometimes three or four times a week.

“When can they find time to read.

“I urge all of you to set aside some time for reading. You want to make time and read a little every day.”

It was good advice and her hope was to catch children at an early age. to shape them for a fruitful future.

“Reading will develop as a lifelong pleasure,” she told the children before handing out prize.

Such was her concern, she even advised children on where they could go to enjoy the pastime of reading.

There were public amenities and children could also develop a passion for playing musical instruments, added Miss Gunson who was a tutor at Wynyard Hall Training College and the guest speaker at Rift House.

Her other pleasures, she said, included watching flowers changing from season to season.

Despite the warnings, there were plenty of Rift House children who did impress at the ceremony.

Prizewinners that year included Margaret Crudace, Silvia Hall, Linda nelson, Elizabeth Robson, Mirislav Varadinek, Bernard Koolman, Michael Westmoreland, Colin Thompson, Adrian Chambrin and Stuart Berry - all winners in the Class V proficiency test.

The Class IV winners included John Cooper (English), Ronald Thompson (art), Lynda Sanderson (needlework), Linda Andrews and Jennifer Sole (proficiency), and Stanley Sharp (enthusiasm and sport)..

In Class III A, Peter Mott won the prize for art while Veronica Rose was victorious in needlework.

Julia Ash was awarded for progress and Lesley Watt, Colin Wells and Valerie Todd all picked up prizes for proficiency.

Do you remember Rift House Schoool in 1956 and were you a pupil?

Do you recognise any of the names above. Email