Friday 27 April 2018

Confusion over classic stories

Many children have not read classic children's novels, a survey has revealed
Many children have not read classic children's novels, a survey has revealed

Matilda lives in the Alps, Long John Silver appeared in Peter Pan and Aslan is a giraffe - these are just some examples of the confusion amongst UK youngsters about classic children's characters.

A new poll suggests that knowledge of children's literature is sometimes sketchy at best, while traditional classics such as Swallows and Amazons and Anne of Green Gables are at risk of being consigned to history.

Around one in six (18%) of the 500 seven to 14-year-olds questioned said it was not Heidi that lived in the Alps, but Roald Dahl's Matilda, while around one in eight (13%) thought the mountains were home to Tracy Beaker.

And although over half knew that Aslan from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a lion, 18% suggested he was a giraffe and and the same proportion said he was a bear.

There was also further confusion over CS Lewis's classic novel. A quarter would have been surprised to find themselves in Narnia, with 17% saying the wardrobe led to the Secret Garden and eight percent believing it ended up in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

Three fifths (61%) of the youngsters questioned knew that Long John Silver appeared in Treasure Island, but one in 10 (10%) thought he was from Peter Pan.

The survey, by Worcester University, suggests that classic children's characters like Jemima Puddleduck and Pippi Longstocking are at risk of being forgotten by the nation's children. It found that just one in four youngsters had heard of these characters, although Robinson Crusoe and Alice in Wonderland were better known (46% and 45% respectively).

Perhaps surprisingly, only half of the children questioned had heard of Harry Potter. It also found that just 6% had read Anne of Green Gables, only 9% had read Swallows and Amazons and 6% had read The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Roald Dahl was the most popular author, chosen by 33%, followed by JK Rowling (21%).

Professor Jean Webb, director of the international forum for research in children's literature, at Worcester University said: "Thankfully to counteract this possible downturn in children experiencing the classics, there is still a very strong interest in our rich literary heritage. This is clearly demonstrated by the popularity of the courses in children's literature currently run across the UK and also internationally."

The poll was conducted to mark the opening of The Hive, a joint university and public library in Worcester.

Press Association

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