I have voiced my frustration in the past that some teachers are prone to stick to reading old favourites, particularly Roald Dahl books, in class, rather than trying something new, and encouraging children to push the boundaries of their reading.
I still find this frustrating. Roald Dahl is universally loved and already has a huge market of fans. If a parent is going to start reading books as oppose to stories to children, Roald Dahl is a natural starting place, and most adults remember Dahl fondly and will naturally gravitate to giving children things to read that they themselves loved as children. Even in the most book poor houses you will find Roald Dahl books, if you find anything at all.
In the early life of this blog I wrote about surveys done by people like the Book Trust and other reading charities which show that of the top ten favourites in schools in terms of what teachers share with their pupils, Roald Dahl books feature heavily.
While it is excellent that children be exposed to all and any books, I do think that there needs to be an effort made by teaching establishments to move away from well worn and tested books which fit neatly into teaching comfort zones and don’t require a lot of effort, books for which there is already a mass of planning material and resources available, to newer or different books and authors.
I realise that this is a bit of a pipe dream. Teaching is ruled by planning and marking, and if you’re constantly having to find or create new resources and take time out of an already packed schedule to do something edgy and creative, it is a big, and sometimes impossible ask.
And then there’s all the things about Dahl that make his books work. Everyone does love his books. They are timeless. The characters are fantastic, the plots are brilliant, the books are funny and gross and appeal to everything that children love. They are also perfect for reading aloud with lots of expression and wonderful words that you can roll around in your mouth and really enjoy reading. There are great illustrations to share, and the books are the right length for about a half term topic. There are books for early years children with The Giraffe, The Giant, The Pelly and Me and The Enormous Crocodile. There are books for older children such as Boy and Going Solo. He really is the perfect author for schools and for children.
I love Dahl’s books myself. I am delighted they are still in print and still entertaining children and adults alike. I cannot deny that I absolutely adored reading George’s Marvellous Medicine to a class of eager seven year old’s yesterday. They lapped it up. They laughed in all the right places. They understood everything and got the joke every time. It was like being a rock star, playing to a crowd who adore you and know all the words to your songs, and actively want to hear them again. At the end of the story time session all the children hugged me.
It was wonderful.
It would be nice if there could be more of a balance in some schools. By all means, let’s not abandon the classics, the stuff we know will work, but at the same time, let’s push the envelope a bit. Let’s introduce the children to new and exciting authors and stories.
Let’s find the Dahl of tomorrow.