Give low cost classics to schools, says Nicky Morgan

Here we go again. I am so sick of people shouting about ‘classics’ as if nothing worth reading was published after a given date. I have to wonder whether the people who harp on about them have actually read these classic books, or have just heard of them. Maybe they’ve seen the film or television adaptations.

It’s interesting that Ms Morgan is requesting copies of ‘the classics’, specifying Austen, Dickens and Bronte, while standing alongside David Williams and quoting Roald Dahl. See, I would class Roald Dahl as a classic children’s author, whereas I woud not include Austen, Dickens or Bronte. Masters they are, undoubtedly, but I wouldn’t be pushing them on pupils; I certainly wouldn’t be insisting on them as class readers.

One of my favourite books is Pride and Prejudice, which I first read, aged 12, after watching the BBC adaptation. Knowing the story carried me through a whole range of vocabulary and manners that I hadn’t a clue about. It took several more readings and a good few years before I realised Austen was being sarcastic. I grew up alongside the book and my understanding grew, and continues to grow, with it.

A book I cannot stand is Catcher in the Rye, a book acclaimed as a ‘modern classic’. I read it aged 25 or so, by which point the endless adolescent ramblings of Holden Caulfield left me cold. Was I too old by that point? (although to be fair, I don’t know whether I would ever have enjoyed his constant girning).

The point is that everyone has to find their own story, and the only way to do that is to have thousands of stories available for them to read, and it doesn’t matter which characters drag them in, be it Matilda, Oliver Twist, Aslan or Mr Darcy.

However, what you do need is someone who knows the stories, someone to collect and keep the stories ready for when they’re required, and keep the shelves stocked with the best of all types of literature, not just ‘classics’.

Wonder who that someone could be?

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