Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tops teachers’ book poll

Date Posted: 31/07/2015

Pictured: Cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (photo credit: Johan Persson).

We look at workshops, visits and resources to tie in with the top ten children's books to read before leaving Primary school.

What are your favourite children’s books? A recent poll by the National Association for the Teaching of English and the TES magazine asked 500 teachers this very question.

And the results? Perhaps unsurprisingly, Roald Dahl is still on top with his crazy confectionery creation Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The top ten also includes Dahl’s Matilda.

The teachers have chosen a couple of traditional classics too; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis.

Parents of younger children will know the draw of Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo which also makes a hairy appearance in the list.

As the summer holidays get under way, the list sets a prescription for the stories pupils should read before they move on from Primary school.

"Fiction teaches children how to navigate the journey of life," says TES editor Ann Mroz.

Top ten children's books to read before leaving Primary school:

•    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
•    Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
•    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
•    Matilda by Roald Dahl
•    The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
•    The Chronicles of Narnia by C?S Lewis
•    The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
•    We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
•    Dogger by Shirley Hughes
•    Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Mroz also commented that many of the books chosen by teachers, in this top ten and a further top 100 list, are "not full of joy and mirth but are instead dark and full of horror - tales of ferocious monsters, abuse, abandonment and even death".

"Not what you'd think the average Primary child would want to read. But these books serve an important purpose, giving children a safe place where they can take control of troubling subjects, where evil can be glimpsed and then shut within their pages."

School trips to fit in with the top ten children’s books 

So other than encouraging your students to read a few – if not all – of the books, how can you tie in a school trip with the above literary list?

The Roald Dahl duo is relatively simple. You can choose from a West End show adaptation of either of the stories – or a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre which is in Great Missenden, the Buckinghamshire village where Roald Dahl lived and wrote for 36 years.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is currently running at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until March next year. Teachers can download a free Stage to Page resource pack from the musical’s website, which includes lesson plans, production resources and exclusive content for schools.

The resources have links to Key Stage 2 and 3 English, Drama, Music, Art, Design & Technology.

The RSC’s Matilda show boasts online resources and RSC practitioner-led workshops too. The workshops, which are suitable for both Primary and Secondary pupils, can be taken pre-show during midweek matinee performances.

Linking The Gruffalo to Geography

The Forestry Commission has taken The Gruffalo under its branches and you can find a number of orienteering trails themed around the mythical beast at its sites across the UK. 

Navigating by orienteering involves a mix of physical activity and decision making. The trail has been designed to link to a number of areas of the Key Stage 1 and 2 Curriculum including Geographical skills – using compass directions and locational and directional language, and using fieldwork to observe human and physical features.

Traditional classics

There are numerous connections in Oxford to both C S Lewis and Lewis Carroll.

Oxford River Cruises runs scenic school trips throughout the year. Its cruises pass a multitude of historical sites from the Middle Ages to the present day and English Literature students can learn from the river's close connections with children's authors including both mentioned above (and Grahame Green and Phillip Pullman in addition).

The C S Lewis Nature Reserve in Risinghurst, Oxford, comprises a woodland and large pond that used to belong to the celebrated Oxford author. History tells us that he enjoyed wandering there while writing his children's book series.

Schools visiting the reserve can choose from a children’s nature trail and a scavenger hunt.

There’s also a C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien walking tour of Oxford available from Oxford Official Guided Walking Tours.

If you are quick off the mark in the autumn term then you can still catch The Alice Look exhibition at the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in London.
Your pupils will get a whole new view of Lewis Carroll's heroine in the display which marks the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The exhibition shows how Alice has been adopted and adapted across the world in all walks of life, and how she has inspired many of the most celebrated designers, stylists and photographers.

The Alice Look runs until 1st November.

For the complete list of books click here.

School Travel Organiser's Guide