Classic books vs contemporary literature

Search in your internet browser for “best children’s books” and the top titles include “Where the Wild Things Are”, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, “Charlotte’s Web”, “Matilda”, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” among many other very familiar books.

As an avid reader, you find yourself nodding vehemently in agreement, immediately mentally listing other favourites or becoming instantly defensive about why C.S. Lewis/Dr Seuss/Rudyard Kipling aren’t right at the very top of that list. As a parent or a teacher, you may also find yourself wondering where the more modern titles are.

What makes a book ‘classic’?

The Wind in the Willows, available via Amazon.

There is much debate over the term ‘classic’. Some insist that to fit this category a book needs to have been proven to stand the test of time, while others are suggesting that more recent books, such as the Harry Potter series, are deserving of the title.

A classic book is one which speaks to its readers, regardless of the era in which they were written, due to its universal themes. Regardless of where you stand on the debate, both classics and contemporary fiction are equally deserving of our attention!

Why read the classics?

Reading older books which have been passed down from generation to generation can sometimes be written off as being stuffy and inaccessible, usually by those who have not yet read them, those who tried to do so too early on, or those who started with some of the more complex, or slower, titles.

These texts contain fantastic vocabulary which expose children to new language, and are an excellent way to improve your own understanding of language and grammatical structures. They also provide an engaging way of finding out more about history, providing an in-depth look at the lives of people!

The benefits of contemporary fiction

Within the range of contemporary fiction, there is a huge variety of authors and titles, plenty of which will appeal to budding readers. The beauty of the modern fiction category is that it’s never-ending – if you want to find a book which deals with sensitive topics, or less common worries, you will almost certainly find the perfect book!

Very often, these touch on problems which were virtually non-existent in the time the classics were written. Harry Potter wasn’t written all that long ago, but while he could fly a broomstick and become invisible, he couldn’t drop Ron a text or follow Hermione on Instagram!

Equally, if you’re dealing with a reluctant reader, huge blocks of text – as frequently found in the classics – will simply put them off. A lot of modern fiction uses shorter paragraphs, making the text much more manageable.

Or, perhaps you’re trying to encourage a child who is lacking in confidence in their reading and who would much rather be outside playing football than in the classroom. A quick internet search for ‘children’s books for football lovers’ returns plenty of titles which offer fictional footballers’ adventures, professional footballers’ biographies, tips and hints for how to become a better footballer… The options are endless!

Ready to read? Here are our recommendations!

Some of the classics we recommend:

  • Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie;
  • The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling;
  • The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame;
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter;
  • The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett;
  • Anne of Green Gables – L. Montgomery;
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott;
  • The Borrowers – Mary Norton;
  • Black Beauty – Anna Sewell;
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson;
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll;
  • The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S Lewis.

Some contemporary titles we recommend:

  • Wonder – RJ Palacio;
  • Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman;
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney;
  • Gangsta Granny – David Walliams;
  • The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson;
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne;
  • Harry Potter – JK Rowling;
  • The Firework-Maker’s Daughter – Philip Pullman;
  • A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle;
  • Holes – Louis Sachar;
  • The Boy at the Back of the Class – Onjali Q. Rauf;
  • The Fastest Boy in the World – Elizabeth Laird;
  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher.  

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