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Proof that reading is not on the critical list

Geraldine Brennan reports on the success of The TES's Rave Reviews competition

THE RESULTS of The TES's head-hunt for young literary critics reveal no shortage of enthusiasm for reading among children, who showed surprisingly eclectic tastes.

The national winners of the Rave Reviews competition whose work is published today in Read On, our children's books supplement, have tastes ranging from literary fiction to mass market hits such as Animal Ark and Point Horror.

One of the youngest winners, seven-year-old Dominic Burrell of Oaklands junior school, Crowthorne, Berkshire, keeps comics by his bed and proved to be a demanding critic of information books. He also insisted that we mention his passion for the Narnia Chronicles, Harry Potter and Animorphs.

Rave Reviews, a competition organised by The TES, the National Association of Head Teachers and McDonald's Restaurants to celebrate the National Year of Reading, attracted almost 4,000 entries from five to 16-year-olds eager to give their favourite book a boost.

Roald Dahl was the most frequently chosen author for critics from five to 14 - which reflects trends in previous surveys pf children's reading. His closest competitors were Dick King-Smith in the infants; Jacqueline Wilson (especially Double Act and Bad Girls) for 10 and 11-year-olds and RL (Gooosebumps) Stine pick of the 14-year-olds.

The latest craze in children's publishing, JK Rowling's Harry Potter titles, won the backing of 123 reviewers, mostly older juniors.

Non-fiction proved considerably less popular than fiction as material on which to sharpen critical faculties, although The Diary of Anne Frank made an impact with the older children and Terry Deary's Horrible Histories for those in primary school.

Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett and Michelle Magorian were all popular authors but novelist Jan Mark, a Rave Reviews judge whose report appears in Read On today, smelled a rat at the popularity of Goodnight Mr Tom, a novel which is a recommended text at key stage 2.

"Those who chose Goodnight Mr Tom opined on the author's use of grammar, vocabulary and syntax. This is less reviewing a book on its merits as a well-written story, than assessing its suitability for inclusion on the curriculum."

But the judges were encouraged by the range and depth of reading and by a key stage 3 boy's choice of Eric Carle's picture book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The winners will receive their prizes from education junior minister Margaret Hodge at a ceremony in Westminster next week.

See Read On magazine

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