Horowitz: 'write up' for children
Children's author Anthony Horowitz has called on his fellow writers to challenge their young readers and "write up" to them.
Horowitz, whose Alex Rider books about a teenage spy have sold in their millions, suggested children were able to cope with "powerful stories or serious ideas" in their reading and urged authors to address such issues .
Writing for TES he suggested that a generation of writers - including Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Horowitz himself - had ridden on the tails of JK Rowling's success with her Harry Potter series, claiming that she had, in part, "reinvented" narrative fiction.
But he argued that some contemporary writing for children had begun to ask less of them as readers.
Horowitz wrote: "Today, it is Jeff Kinney (the Wimpy Kid series) and David Walliams who top the bestseller lists, with books that are witty and entertaining but nowhere near as ambitious.
"Speaking personally I was a little sad when, in Walliams' Gangsta Granny, we were told that among the old woman's vices, which also included dribbling and farting, 'Her house was stuffed full of books and she was always trying to get Ben to read them, even though he loathed reading'.
"The idea that children automatically dislike reading or that books belong to a more fusty, ancient generation is patently absurd. Brightly re-jacketed and with some of the more arcane references (Rubik's Cube, Alex Ferguson, the Sony Discman, flares) removed, it seems that Alex Rider is as popular as ever."
He re-emphasised advice he gave at a recent talk to unpublished authors, saying: "Write up for children, not down to them."
He added: "We don't need to be afraid of powerful stories or serious ideas. The audience is there."
Horowitz also criticised the lack of time children have to give to reading, accusing the national curriculum of "crowding out reading for pleasure".
He wrote: "Why are so many school libraries underfunded? Why is it not statutory for every secondary school to have a trained, full-time librarian? But there I go again. I'm just a writer. What do I know?"