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Reading "The Classics" at aged 10.

(54 Posts)
ToomanyChristmasPresents Tue 09-Dec-14 09:16:02

Is this normal? Expected?

I have a DD in yr6 who is an able and avid reader. Her teacher keeps pushing her to read the Classics. In fact, he urges the whole class to do so. I am very surprised. I would have thought books like "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Treasure Island," etc. Could wait until she was a little older and probably be read as a whole class with support and discussion along the way.

Basically, I thought my child's teacher was just a little gung-ho, and I chose not to push my DD but to support whatever she wanted to read. Better "The Hunger Games," than "Anne of Green Gables," if the former is read in 3 days and the latter takes a fortnight. Basically, in our house it's the difference between voracious reading and almost not reading at all.

Then, chatting to another mum and friend who's DS is in yr6 at a Catholic primary just half a mile down the road and she brings up the fact that her DS is being pushed to read the classics and she cannot understand why. He's very happy to read Alex Rider novels and at this age she would just assume let him for all the same reason I outlined earlier.

I have to admit, I like the classics, but I read them in my teens with support and then on my own in adulthood. I am amazed at this push to get 10 year olds reading classics on their own. Am I just a molly-codler?

LittleRedRidingHoodie Tue 09-Dec-14 09:24:37

You've got michael gove And the Conservative party to thank for that one. Their new curriculum is obsessed with everything old school.

maizieD Tue 09-Dec-14 09:29:17

If you mean 'classic' adult novels then I completely agree, she is probably too young. 'Classic' children's literature wouldn't come amiss, though.

PastSellByDate Tue 09-Dec-14 09:44:23

Hi TooMany:

Yes this is normal - especially in areas with the 11+ - but an extract from Jack London's Fang was on the KS2 SATs Reading comprehension.

Personally - I had a DD1 spend all of year 6 reading extracts (so 2-3 pages of great books - but not the whole book). I'd far rather she read the whole book.

I think TooMany you're being too literal - read all the Classics - rather than read Children's Classics which might include:

The independent 50 Classic books list:

The book Trust list:

The Guardian 8 - 11 year old list:

I think the reality with Classic literature is that with each reading and at different ages you can take different things away with it.

I agree To Kill A Mockingbird may be a better read in a few years - but Treasure Island is a rip roaring tale of adventure and in the 1950s would have been traditionally considered appropriate for 10 year olds.

One interesting thing that happened for us was in the run-up to the 11+ (Sept Year 6) DD1 decided she should tackle a Classic - so she checked out Rudyard Kipling's Kim. At first she thought that the story was about a girl named Kim and her Llama (yes the Peruvian animal) - so I took over reading the book with her and explaining what words meant (or even looking them up when I didn't know). She loved the story, it's exotic locations, Kim's clever solutions to problems and the adventure - admittedly a lot of the subtext went over her head - but what I found truly interesting was she was struggling with that rich English Kipling language whereas her grandfather counts this as one of his childhood favourites and read it for the first time at a similar age (10 years old).

I think what the teacher is trying to say is an endless diet of Horrid Henry, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, ....e.g. modern & commercially successful Children's authors - fun, lovely, imaginative stories though they are - limits your vocabulary, your appreciation of English language and indeed your horizons.

You aren't required to do so - of course - it's a suggestion from the teacher - but there are some fabulous books on those lists - which are great reads and would be page turners.

And by the way - some may query why someone 10 years old or younger is reading The Hunger Games: for example Common Sense Media actually recommends Book 1 for 12 years olds or older -


HeeHiles Tue 09-Dec-14 09:49:53

My 9 year old has read loads of classic literature already, children's lit - Black Beauty, Little Women/Good Wives, Secret Garden, Treasure Island and lots more that I can't remember! But she also loves Jaq Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, Anne Fine et al - I encourage her to read anything she wants and love sharing the books I read as a child with her - Variety is the spice of life and as the above poster points out it introduces a richer form of vocabulary and teaches her different ways of life and how things used to be.

ToomanyChristmasPresents Tue 09-Dec-14 10:03:00

Thank you for your perspectives on this. Yes, perhaps he means children's classics. I have tried Treasure Island, Anne of Greengables, Little Women, The Witch of Blackbird Pind, and Carrie's War. She does not enjoy them, won't finish them and reading grinds to a halt. I do try reading along with her in order to discuss them with her, but she is far from impressed.

I can see the value in reading classics, but it's not working for her at this point. I'd prefer to keep her reading all the time and enjoying it.

AuntieStella Tue 09-Dec-14 10:04:38

Forcing children to read books they hate will be counterproductive.

Encouraging them to try things from a wide range sounds like a fantastic idea.

Pelicangiraffe Tue 09-Dec-14 10:06:26

Mine was pushed by school to read the classics and other adult literature in year 6. I'd rather DS followed his interests and enjoyed reading though. He wasn't keen at all.

TheBookofRuth Tue 09-Dec-14 10:13:14

By that age I'd read the Anne of Green Gables series, all the Little Women books, The Secret Garden, the Just So Stories, most of the children's classics - but I loved them. I agree it's better to keep her reading books she enjoys rather than risk turning her off reading altogether by forcing books on her that she doesn't enjoy.

But maybe just keep making them available to her, to give her a chance to change her mind?

OfficerKaren Tue 09-Dec-14 10:17:43

It's worth continuing to read to older children those books they don't like reading themselves because they find them a jump from modern children's books.

Theas18 Tue 09-Dec-14 10:31:15

Fence sitting here.

Me and mine certainly had read the classics at primary- Anne of green gables, the secret garden, little house on the prairie etc. Not to mention all the Narnia books. They give you so much in terms of vocabulary and language use that modern classics like Harry Potter and Hunger games don't do. We also had many on audiobook for the car- including frankenstein ! They all listen to similar readings of radio 4 extra ( then radio 7) from quite young. Gave DD2 a real head start at secondary,

Certainly I'd rather these ( yes even frankenstein, at 11 she realised it wasn't a horror story really) than the seriously scary ( to me) Jaqueline wilson dealing with broken families, abuse and real heartbreak happening to kids like them... but maybe that my form of cotton wool?

iseenodust Tue 09-Dec-14 10:35:05

^^an endless diet of Horrid Henry, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jacqueline Wilson, ..... limits your vocabulary, your appreciation of English language...

This exactly. They are fun but not exactly brimming with an extensive vocabulary or complex sentences. The phrase DS's HT uses is 'encourage them to read appropriately challenging books'. Recently DS had comprehensions questions on a passage from Swiss Family Robinson (which he hasn't read) and the difference was stark. The HT recommends audio books as a means to expanding vocabulary if reading time is tight. DS would not have tackled Treasure Island but enjoyed the cd.

PastSellByDate Tue 09-Dec-14 10:36:20


I agree it's a difficult balancing act. More important they continue to enjoy reading - but of course they will hit that point in senior school where you're assigned a book to read as a class and critique.

I think what the teacher is getting at - is that the 'next logical step' for your child is to tackle higher quality fiction that really stretches her comprehension & vocabulary skills.

Perhaps the solution is to introduce it in small bursts. I know for us my reading to the kids or getting audio tapes for the car - was very helpful. So perhaps 90% read what you like - and 10% let's read this (let me read it to you) - classical/ different choices from normal fiction diet. We started with A Christmas Carol and Charlotte's Web - and we still (DD2 Y5/ DD1 Y7) read books - lots of my childood favourites (Wrinkle in Time/ The Bridge of Terabithia/ Phantom of Toolbooth/....)

There are tons of great stories out there:

The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (chronicles of Narnia) C. S. Lewis
What Katy Did - Susan Coolidge
Skellig - David Almond
Greek myths by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Phantom of Tollbooth - Norton Juster
Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh - Robert C. O'Brien

and there's so much more ....

Join a library - if you're not already a member - and have an explore.

Shedding Tue 09-Dec-14 10:40:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ToomanyChristmasPresents Tue 09-Dec-14 10:40:28

Thank you for the very useful links PSBD. I am sure there will be a few that tickle her fancy here.

A very good idea to read more challenging books to her as a bridge. And yes for continuing to make a wide variety available.

She did read the Narnia books happily. Oddly, she read Cohelo's The Alchamist and really liked it . I am sure she lacked the maturity to understand the full metaphor.

I like the idea of Frankenstien, that might be right up her ally.

Namechangeyetagaintohide Tue 09-Dec-14 10:42:45

I read a lot of children's classics at that age too. I did enjoy a lot if them - Anne of green gables, secret garden etc etc but they were "heavier" IYSWIM and I often preferred more modern books, sometimes adult ones.

Corygal Tue 09-Dec-14 10:49:26

It bewilders me when people assume that children's classics are 'old school' or stuffy and dull.

They really aren't - books like that don't survive for centuries without being rip-roaringly entertaining, their value passed on through word of mouth over the generations. And as for being difficult, I can't see that's the case much - there's no crippling vocab barrier, just the odd old-fashioned word or phrase.

Most children's classics are the ideal way to broaden one's mental horizons without much effort. Such a shame that some parents are anti that idea.

Soveryupset Tue 09-Dec-14 11:01:30

It's probably just me, but I don't see how you can equate Horrid Henry/Diary of a Wimpy Kid with Michael Morpurgo. Having read all them, I think Michael Morpurgo's books have some beautiful passages. I have just finished reading "Private Peaceful" with my children and half way through War Horse. We have talked extensively about autism, world war one, the different types of animals used in war, and there were some words in the book I didn't know myself.

Whilst I agree that Horrid Henry/Diary of a Whimpy kid have simpler language and are repetitive, I would say that Michael Morpurgo is a completely different type of book and some of them I would say are "classics" - but maybe it's just me.

nonicknameseemsavailable Tue 09-Dec-14 11:38:43

I think reading the old childrens classcs is very important because of the different style of language and grammar used. I however am talking about childrens classics not ones which I would have seen as Yr9 upwards type books.

Lots of children however are very reluctant to read them because basically they are harder work to read. Many however enjoy listening to them so perhaps that is one way to make them more accessible, read them to them and see if they will then pick them up and continue.

I would much prefer my child to spend a couple of weeks reading Anne of Green Gables at that age than even open the Hunger Games personally but that is just me.

Children that age used to love the Just William books, original Paddington etc. Charlotte Sometimes, Moondial, those kind of books.

PastSellByDate Tue 09-Dec-14 12:59:51


Don't get me wrong - I like all these books, including Morpurgo - but around here children read these and very little else (maybe Horrible Histories) - and that's what I object to.

I am more than happy for them to read Morpurgo - but also E B White (Charlotte's Web), Dick King-Smith (The sheep-pig/ Babe), Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events - all 13 books), J K Rowling (Harry Potter), non-fiction books on Astronomy or dinosaurs, Horrible Histories, Horrible Science, comic books, magazines, etc.....

I'd like to see a rich diet - which can include widely acknowledged classics that have stood the test of time - as well as the new, trendy and the just plain silly or funny....

munchkin2902 Tue 09-Dec-14 13:47:40

I was given Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre when I was about that age. I loved them (and I now have a Masters in English Literature!)

LooseAtTheSeams Tue 09-Dec-14 14:36:20

I would definitely recommend Lemony Snicket as a rather effective bridge to the classics! And I so loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond but I think I was about 12 when I read it.
For what it's worth, I remember encountering 'Just William' at the age of 9 or 10 and finding the vocabulary and style very odd. My dad read the first story to me and after that it clicked. (Even now DP claims he can't get to grips with it!) So I definitely think at primary school age sometimes it helps to have part or all of the story read to you or heard on an audio. Many of the stories I enjoyed at that age such as Carrie's War were also adapted for television.
With some of the children's classics, it's not so much the complexity of the words but the dense phrasing and the historical setting can seem really odd and if the child isn't that keen on history it can be positively off-putting.
Having said that, the Hunger Games is a bit strong for me, even now! I'd much rather read Treasure Island!

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Tue 09-Dec-14 14:55:17

I remember reading Anne of Green Gables when I was about 11 or 12. I loved it but have always enjoyed history. I remember walking home from school and there were a group of young primary kids probably about 8 or 9 and one of them was also carrying Anne of GG and I was shocked as it is clearly a book for older children. Young as I was I remember thinking what on Earth a child so young would get out of it. Then I came on certain MN threads and know I understand wink

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Tue 09-Dec-14 14:57:06

Now not know, sorry

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 09-Dec-14 15:04:07

One of the (many) things I adore about Jacqueline Wilson is how hard she works at getting children to read the classics. Her 'Four Children And It' is a way in to E.Nesbit, she writes so enthusiastically about Noel Streatfeild that my dd was desperate to try it (and loved it) and she's done an anthology of animal stories, Paws and Whiskers, that has bits from lots of classic authors as well as modern ones.

I've found with my kids that pushing them to read classics doesn't work because they hate being told what to read, but leaving the books lying around and then leaving it to tween opinion-formers like JW to get them to actually want to, works wonders.

BTW, it's worth knowing that a lot of the earlier children's classics are free on Kindle - we have the E.Nesbits, Pollyanna, What Katy Did, Black Beauty and more, and issues like there being more words to the page (and hence smaller print) than modern authors like Morpurgo disappear on Kindle.

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