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George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four chosen as 'must read' by teachers

Published 31/07/2015

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is at the top of teachers' list of books every student should read before leaving secondary school.
George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is at the top of teachers' list of books every student should read before leaving secondary school.

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is at the top of teachers' list of books "every student should read before leaving secondary school".

The list of 100 novels has been chosen by 500 teachers for the National Association for the Teaching of English and the TES magazine.

Orwell's dystopian work comes ahead of The Harry Potter series, which was ranked sixth, and was closely followed by Animal Farm in third place.

His son Richard Blair, patron of the Orwell Society, said the novels are "as fresh today as when they were written all those years ago".

"Young people should be encouraged to read Orwell because he teaches us to think, to write down our thoughts as individuals and not be afraid to express ourselves," he told TES.

The top 10 list is dominated by classic literature - Charles Dickens features twice alongside Harper Lee, William Golding, John Steinbeck, JD Salinger and Jane Austen.

Gabrielle Cliff-Hodges, senior education lecturer at the University of Cambridge, said reading classics give youngsters the choice to carry on studying those authors.

"If they read these books, they're in a position to make an informed decision about whether they want to read any more by that author or in that genre.

"But if they don't read it, they don't know - and they won't get that chance," she said.

According to teachers, choosing a list of books that students should read over what they might like to read was a difficult decision.

"It's always a balancing act in the books that teachers select," Chris Curtis, an English teacher from Derbyshire, said.

"Do you go for something that students will enjoy and lap up and read, or do you go for something that will help them cut their teeth?"

Students will often stick to what is "fun and safe" when it comes to choosing books, he added.

Libby Smith, a secondary teacher in Hampshire, said that modern teenage fiction, such as the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, do not provide the same challenge as the classics.

"These teen books tend to simplify quite complex emotional issues, and the language is simplified too," she said.

"They're great for what they are and they are incredibly important for teen readers in terms of developing joy in reading and developing ideas about self.

"But they're not challenging in the same way that some of the established canon is challenging."

Here are the top 10 books chosen by teachers:

1 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

2 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

3 Animal Farm by George Orwell

4 Lord Of The Flies by William Golding

5 Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

6 The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

7 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

8 The Catcher In The Rye by J D Salinger

9 Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

10 Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen

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