Why children’s classics are still important today

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In this age of screens and instant gratification, it is challenging enough to convince a child to sit down with a book. Try a book about a hedgehog laundress in a striped petticoat or a poor but kind and imaginative Victorian child in a bleak garret, and you’ll have said child switching on the tablet faster than you can say “Wuthering Heights”.
 
But it is vital that as parents we continue to expose children to these timeless and beautiful works of literature, that have, and will continue to, stand the test of time. We are fortunate in that currently there are many exquisitely published editions of children’s classics available. But even reading with a child from a standard paperback edition doesn’t dim the experience as the magic is, after all, in the power wielded by those talented wordsmiths, the authors. Not to mention the wonderful continuity of reading from your own well-loved childhood edition.
 
Reading classics to children expose them to words that they have never heard before, it increases their vocabulary; their understanding of unknown words in context. Most classics have universal themes of good vs evil which very child has a primal understanding of. Everyone can relate to the goodies vs the baddies. Most classics have a lyrical, even poetical use of language that can soothe an overwrought soul who’s had a bad day at aftercare. Even if children do not comprehend every word and nuance of the story, the beauty of the language and the comfort of sharing it with you can create traditions and memories that hours on the tablet and PlayStation will never be able to.
 
Top 5 Children’s Classics
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Some of my earliest memories are of my mum reading from this absolute gem to me. “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” {the chapter in the book, not the Pink Floyd album} still has me in awe at the sheer beauty of the language. The tender, enviable friendship between Rat and Mole still rates as one of the most endearing in literature. It is , of course set in the now fast disappearing bucolic English countryside and contains what I still consider to be an excellent piece of advice, ”Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.
 
A Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle by Beatrix Potter
No collection of classics can ever be complete without Beatrix Potter. This little book has always fascinated me , and continues to do so. A forest walk still always involves a peek for tiny doors or entrances to Miss Tiggywinkle’s domain. I always wondered if Lucie ever managed to find Mrs Tiggywinkle again and the description of her bustling about in her laundry amongst the clean, ironed animal clothes evokes a warmth, innocence and security that can only be found in childhood.
 
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Who hasn’t climbed into the largest cupboard in their childhood home and felt, with beating heart for the back of it, all the while hoping against hope that your fingertips would start touching fir branches? Ah, Narnia has enthralled children for generations and all 7 of these favourites are packed full of imagination, adventure and heart. I defy anyone not to sob during the scene with Aslan and the stone table, and I have had a soft spot for mice ever since.
 
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
The ultimate tale of friendship, loyalty and rollicking adventure liberally sprinkled with trolls, dwarves, a smug dragon, a paternal wizard and a reluctant hero with hirsute feet. It’s still completely fabulous and a sound introduction to the darker more complex Lord of the Rings.
 
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
What if James hadn’t slipped and dropped the bag of squirmy, squiggly green things? What would have happened had he drunk them as the rather creepy old man had told him to? I’ve wondered that for 40 years. But then I might never have joined James on his incredible adventure which I still re-read. I might never have met the kind-hearted Miss Spider or the wondrous Centipede or any of the splendiferous characters in this strange, delightful, completely Dahl-esque classic.
 
Top 5 Children’s Modern Classics
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • Harry Potter by JK Rowling
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  • Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransome Riggs

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