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Classic children'€™s tales still popular

The Read for my Schools challenge helps to foster a love of reading in children and the results for 2014 are now in

Posted by Dave Higgitt | December 08, 2014 | School life

Read for my School is a national reading challenge open to children in years three to eight which aims to engage children in reading and to help schools engender a reading culture. Pupils are challenged to read as many books as they can from eight categories. Children log what they read on the website, receiving virtual rewards and being entered for weekly prize draws. This year 212,000 pupils in more than 3,600 primary and secondary schools across England participated, choosing from hundreds of print and online books that can be accessed at home as well as in class. In total, they read a staggering 876,000 books.

The children can choose from an online library of books or choose their own. For 2015 the books are also tablet- and iPad-friendly as well as being able to be read on a computer or laptop.

More than 3,600 schools took part in this year’s Read for my School challenge, run by publishers Pearson and reading charity Booktrust with the support of the Department of Education.

The 2014 challenge shows that classic children’s books written more than 100 years ago can still spark the imagination of the modern generation of schoolchildren. While many of the most popular texts chosen by pupils this year were contemporary novels and non-fiction, some old favourites, written more than 100 years ago, featured strongly.

Lewis Carroll’s fantasy ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, first published in 1865, was ranked in the top 20 of the most read books, selected by more than 6,000 pupils this year. ‘Black Beauty’, Anna Sewell’s classic about the adventures of a handsome black horse, born on a farm but put to work pulling cabs in London, was published in 1877. It was chosen by more than 4,000 book worms, taking 30th position in the top 100 table.

Even the book taking the top spot in the table of most popular titles is based on a classic fairytale. ‘Cinderella: The Real Story’ by Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler gives the original story a modern twist and was read by just over 16,500 children.

Proving the enduring popularity of children’s author Roald Dahl, ‘The Fantastic Mr Fox’, published in 1970, takes fourth position in the table. Some 12,000 children selected the title.

Peter Hughes, director of corporate responsibility at Pearson, said: “Brilliant new children's literature is being produced all the time but many classic books still have an enthusiastic audience. These books transcend the generations with their bold adventures and big themes. They transport children into different worlds. As well as the huge enjoyment pupils derive from the stories, many classics also introduce children to new words, enriching their language, and help them to progress in school.”

Daisy Casemore, aged 11 and a year six pupil in a South London school, took part in the Read for My School competition earlier this year. She says: “I liked that I could choose from different categories in the Read for my School online library. I loved the humour category as the books made me laugh a lot. I also liked reading ‘Cinderella: The Real Story’. This was one of my favourites as it gave a different twist to the normal Cinderella story. All the characters were the opposite to the classic tale and it was cleverly written and I loved it.”

As part of Read for my School, pupils are challenged to read as many books as they can from eight categories. For the last two years, the most popular genre has been humour. The 876,000 books read by pupils this year were split by category as follows: 

1 Humour 27%
2 Real life 18%
3 Animals and the wild 13%
4 Adventure 11%
5 Science fiction and fantasy 11%
6 Mystery and horror 10%
7 Film and TV 5%
8 Historical fiction: 5% 

International bestselling children’s author Jeremy Strong, who has published more than 30 humorous books including ‘My Brother’s Famous Bottom’ and ‘The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog’, said: “Adding a sense of fun to stories is one of the best ways to turn a child into a reader and gain a love of reading. Funny stories are hugely effective in creating life-long readers.”

Teachers who entered their schools this year said the competition transformed pupils into voracious bookworms, spurred on by the prospect of reading more books than their classmates and winning prizes for their school. Teachers credited Read for my School with boosting pupils’ desire to read, with 80 per cent, stating that having the option to read books online motivated their pupils to read more. As in 2013, they reported that boys with average and lower reading ability were the groups whose interest was most sparked. Across the whole competition, 56 per cent of all books logged were read online.

Jackie May, deputy head teacher and literacy co-ordinator at the Lordship Lane Primary School, in north London, which was the Best Read School in the competition earlier this year, said the level of enthusiasm it generated “took her breath away … A child who reads for pleasure, is easy to spot in a classroom. They are the children who are excited by reading, who feel or learn something when they read and want to talk about whatever they have read, fiction or non-fiction, books or magazines. This pleasure or 'point' to reading will have a direct correlation on how well they do at school and later on in their lives. That’s why it’s important that both schools and parents encourage reading for pleasure.”

Reading for pleasure has been shown to have a significant impact on educational attainment. Recent research, published by the Institute of Education, London, found that children who read on a regular basis made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.

Registration for next year’s competition is now open to schools and teachers at www.readformyschool.co.uk The target is for one million books to be read by pupils between January and March 2015, with Read for my School Reading Culture awards and prizes worth at least £1,000 on offer to winning schools. Teachers will be able to set up educator and pupil accounts as well as accessing a range of teacher support resources to prepare and plan for the competition well in advance. Schools, teachers and parents can also follow Read for my School on Twitter @ReadforMySchool. 

The top ten books read in 2014’s Read for my School challenge 

1 ‘Cinderella: The Real Story’ by Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler
2 ‘Wicked Baba Yaga’ by Sarah Shillam
3 ‘Flash the Dog Bounces In!’ by Jim Eldridge
4 ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ by Roald Dahl
5 ‘The Story of Chocolate’ by Caryn Jenner
6 ‘My Highly Private Holiday Diary’ by Jillian Powell
7 ‘Ape Adventures’ by Catherine Chambers
8 ‘The Mystery of the Missing Finger’ by Josh Lacey
9 ‘Amber Brown is not a Crayon’ by Paul Danziger
10 ‘Everything You Need To Know About Sharks’ from Dorling Kindersley

Other popular classics which featured include Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ at 17 and Anna Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’ at 30. 

www.readformyschool.co.uk

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