Issue of the day: Giving the classics a bedtime break

THEY are classic tales adored by children for generations, but a major publisher is now calling on parents to turn to books about “global issues” for bedtime reading, giving the likes of Dahl and Blyton a break.

Dahl is still the top choice for bedtime reading?

Oxford University Press (OUP) has revealed findings from a survey of 4000 parents, showing that in the UK, 63 per cent prefer to read books to their children that they enjoyed in their own childhoods, rather than choosing newer titles. And when asked what their go-to book was, parents overwhelmingly named Roald Dahl as their top pick, 60 years after James and the Giant Peach – his first novel intentionally penned for children – was published.


What else?

Classic stories from Enid Blyton, Astrid Lingren’s Pippi Longstocking, and Beatrix Potter also proved popular. Other favourites included Gruffalo creator Julia Donaldson and works by Michael Morpurgo.


So far so good…?

Parents passing on their love of literature was a positive finding from the research, which also revealed the power of reading in helping young people to make sense of the world around them. Two thirds of parents said they saw reading to their child as an opportunity to discuss difficult or sensitive topics with them (64%) and specifically looked for books to teach their children about wider society or that have a meaningful message at their heart (66%).



Almost half (47%) prefer to re-read books to their child, rather than look for something new. And it isn’t just parents who favour familiar books as six in 10 (56%) parents said their children preferred them to revisit the same books at story time.


And now?

OUP want parents to close the classics for a change and “broaden the types of books they turn to” and has a list of books it recommends to help children learn about “wider society”, so instead of Blyton’s Famous Five or Dahl’s The Witches, they suggest books such as The Pirate Mums by Jodie Lancet-Grant, about a boy whose mothers are both pirates, and Max Takes A Stand by Tim Allman, about a youngster trying to save the planet, said to be “perfect for today’s school strikers for climate change”.


Any others?

The OUP also suggests Bear Shaped by Dawn Coulter-Cruttenden, which aims to teach children about loss, and Jon Burgerman’s Everybody Worries, which is about dealing with worries and anxiety.


The overall aim?

“Opening people’s eyes to new worlds and ideas”, said Nigel Portwood, CEO of OUP. “It is wonderful that family favourites continue to be loved and enjoyed by parents and children alike. However, reading is also a valuable tool for helping young people to understand current and future societal issues. It’s clear that more must be done to support parents in accessing materials for reading at home—including helping them to identify new titles that they can read alongside family favourites—to ensure that all children experience the benefits that reading has to offer.”



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