An analysis of more than 90,000 short stories written by children under 13 has found that mothers are the most important characters.
Oxford University Press looked at the entries to a competition called 500 Words run by BBC Radio 2 and found that “mum’ was the most popular word in children’s stories this year. The word “dad” just about crept into the top 15 words.
However, before dads get too miserable, the study showed that fathers were more often than not appeared as “action men” in kids’ stories – fighting baddies, blowing things up and building useful gadgets.
Despite concerns over technology such as texting destroying language, children were also found to have invented new words such as “fabdabidabulous” and a creature named a “dulbodogfragonaffe”.
The winners of the competition will be announced at the Hay Festival on Friday and broadcast on Radio 2.
Also at the Hay Festival, former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo has said that it’s important not to patronise children in books since they grow up too fast to have the real world hidden from them, report the Telegraph.
The author, best-known for books such as Why the Whales Came, Kensuke’s Kingdom, Private Peaceful and the hugely successful War Horse, said:
“[children] must read literature that reflects that world, that is serious about that world, that makes them think about it. I like to look children in the eye. I don’t think of them as seven, eight or nine; I just tell the story.
“I rely on their intelligence, their sensitivity to understand it as best they can. Children can accept what they can accept. Provided you’re not pushing the whole thing at them and pushing it down their throats, they’re quite capable of saying ‘that’s enough’ and responding to that.”