‘Older literature allows young minds to experience the past’: Enid Blyton Society blasts Oxford University Press for ‘narrowing’ children’s reading by urging parents to swap Famous Five for ‘woke’ modern alternatives
- EXCLUSIVE: The group warned new novels should be read alongside the classics
- It said that the old literature keeps children’s ‘minds and emotions fully engaged’
- Oxford University Press told parents they should ‘be more adventurous’ in books
- The major publisher said they should get books on topics such as homelessness
The Enid Blyton Society has hit back at Oxford University Press after it urged parents to read their children ‘woke’ modern books.
The group warned new novels should be read alongside classics rather than replace them so youngsters learn about history, sociology and language.
It said the old literature keeps their ‘minds and emotions fully engaged’ and helps them understand ‘how the past shaped the present’.
It comes after Oxford University Press told parents they should ‘be more adventurous’ and pick up books on topics such as diversity and homelessness.
The major publisher told them to ‘broaden the types of books’ they pick at story time ‘to prompt questions and build greater understanding of global issues’.
It followed new OUP research that found two thirds – 63 per cent – of UK parents prefer to read their children books they enjoyed in their own childhood.
The Enid Blyton Society has hit back at Oxford University Press after it urged parents to read their children ‘woke’ modern books. Pictured: The author
The group warned new novels should be read alongside classics rather than replace them so youngsters learn about history, sociology and language
It comes after Oxford University Press told parents they should ‘be more adventurous’ and pick up books on topics such as diversity and homelessness
Anita Bensoussane, society administrator for the Enid Blyton Society, told MailOnline: ‘It’s good for young readers to grow up understanding how the past shaped the present, and how the present will shape the future.
‘Reading older literature (or having it read aloud) enables children to ‘experience’ the past through characters they care about.
‘That means their minds and emotions are fully engaged and they learn important lessons about history, sociology and language while enjoying a cracking story.’
She said modern books should be digested too, but not in replace of classics such as Blyton’s Famous Five.
She added: ‘Why narrow children’s reading by discarding older texts even though they continue to appeal and inspire?
‘Providing a wide selection of both new books and classics will result in a rich, rewarding reading experience that is informative and thought-provoking as well as entertaining.’
The original Peter Rabbit is an icon of children’s literature, but should parents be ‘broadening’ the books they read to their children to reflect today’s issues?
Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories and Roald Dahl’s Matilda have embedded themselves as family classics
OUP is urging parents to ‘broaden the types of books’ they pick at story time ‘to prompt questions and build greater understanding of global issues’.
When asked which book or author they most enjoyed reading to their children, parents named Roald Dahl, who wrote Matilda and James And The Giant Peach.
Stories from Enid Blyton, such as Noddy and The Famous Five, and Beatrix Potter, who created Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, also proved popular.
And Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking remained a firm favourite. Other recent picks were Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo and Winnie the Witch.
Almost four in ten – 37 per cent – parents said they did not know how to find out what the latest books are and almost half prefer to re-read books to their child.
Stella and the Seagull by Georgina Stevens and Izzy Burton is a trailblazer in modern children’s literature; as is Ben Davis’ The Soup Movement, which tackles illness and moving home
Pirate Mums by Jodie Lancet-Grant looks at the diversity of modern families, while Tim Allman’s Max Takes a Stand follows a bold, environmental hero
And it’s not just parents who would prefer to stick to something familiar.
Almost six in ten – 56 per cent – said their children preferred them to revisit the same books at story time.
OUP put together a list of books it recommends to help children learn about ‘wider society’.
These include The Pirate Mums by Jodie Lancet-Grant, about a boy whose mothers are pirates, and Max Takes A Stand by Tim Allman, about a child trying to save Earth.
Bear Shaped by Dawn Coulter-Cruttenden hopes to teach children about loss while Jon Burgerman’s Everybody Worries offers support during the coronavirus crisis.
Nigel Portwood, OUP chief executive, said it was ‘wonderful’ that classics continued to be popular with families but he added that reading is a ‘valuable tool’ to help children understand ‘societal issues’.
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