Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What Children Should Read

There's a story in today's The Herald which reports that J K Rowling, Philip Pullman, Ben Okri and Andrew Motion, amongst others, have each compiled a list of 10 books every child should read for the Royal Society of Literature's magazine. The Guardian also reports this story and gives Rowling's, Motion's and Pullman's lists (see below); the latter includes Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson, Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner and Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding. Motion chose Homer's Odyssey, and Coleridge & Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads. Motion's list is by far the most advanced, and would be appropriate for teens. The Guardian reports that although it wasn't on his list Pullman also recommends the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

"for the wonderful rhythms and rhymes and the muscular strength of the language. You don't understand everything as a child but you love the sound of it. Children respond very immediately to the musical rhythmic effects of language."

The recommendations were sought by the Royal Society of Literature's Anthony Gardner following a discussion between the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the RSL about the teaching of English in schools.

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Animal Farm - George Orwell
The Tale of Two Bad Mice - Beatrix Potter
The Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger
Hamlet - William Shakespeare

Finn Family Moomintroll - Tove Jansson
Emil and the Detectives - Erich Kästner
The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens (or other good anonymous ballads)
First Book of Samuel, Chapter 17 (the story of David and Goliath)
Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
A good collection of myths and legends
A good collection of fairytales

The Odyssey - Homer
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
Hamlet - William Shakespeare
Paradise Lost - John Milton
Lyrical Ballads - Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
Ulysses - James Joyce
The Waste Land - T S Eliot

I confess I feel better than I thought I might, seeing Motion's list. I've still not managed Paradise Lost, I've not read Don Quixote yet (but it's on my "one day" list), I've read other books by both Joyce and James, and everything else I have read... So what do readers think; which 10 books would you encourage every child to read (or indeed anyone at all) ?


Mrs. Coulter said...

I do well on Rowling's list (everything except David Copperfield, and not so well on Pullman and Motion. On Pullman's list, I've read only the Bible story, Where the Wild Things Are and Romeo and Juliet (though I have read plenty of myths and legends and fairytales...but it's hard to know what would constitute "good"). I do even worse with Motion's list...only Hamlet and The Odyssey. I did love Just So Stories as a child...particularly "The Elephant's Child." A classic tale of Lamarckianism!

Should a child really be reading Ulysses? Isn't that more of a college-level thing?

Anonymous said...

Pullman's list is the most balanced and I'm so delighted to see a good set of myths and a good collection of fairytales included that it wins hands down. Plus, the description of Kipling's "Just So" stories is indeed telling: "muscular strength of the language," yeah!

Kelly said...

Ah! I see you haven't read "Don Quixote" yet either :)

I guess my issue with the lists is that, at least in the "Guardian", "children" wasn't really defined. I think of teenagers as adults, I must confess, and capable of adult reading from 14-15 if they prefer. So...if I were to design a list for children, my inclination would be to focus on books written for the preteen crowd. "Harriet the Spy" and "The Phantom Tollbooth" would top my list along with Greek and Norse myths.

Michele said...

I think that Motion's list is definitely aimed at teens. If you were compiling such a list for younger children (for example, what should every child read before they are 15), what would you include ? New and old titles are acceptable.

Fence said...

What exactly do they mean by a child? I wouldn't expect the average ten year old to enjoy Hamlet, for example

Martin LaBar said...

One of the really interesting things about this post is that there doesn't seem to be any duplication.

I'd say that children (and others) should read some works that have stood the test of time, including fairytales and Bible stories.

Bud Parr said...

These are kind of funny lists because they don't all seem to be for the same age group. For younger readers I like Pullman's and older readers I like Motion's. I would add "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. Definitely folk tales too.

Michele said...

Yes the RSL really should have indicated what age range the lists are meant to cover because as readers have observed some lists are clearly aimed at older children and others will do well for children of all ages...

Anonymous said...

I blogged about this as well, and there's lots of discussion on my blog about it. I don't think there should be a should iyswim. Have linked to the relevant blogpost, hope that's OK.