A headteacher from a school in Gloucestershire has singled out books like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games for criticism because they are ‘damaging the brains of young children.’ Graeme Whiting, the head of The Acorn School, published a blog post on the school’s website advising parents to ban their children from reading ‘mythical and frightening texts’ that he believes contain ‘deeply insensitive and addictive material’.
Whiting, who stands for the ‘old-fashioned values of traditional literature’, wrote in The Imagination of the Child that buying ‘sensational’ books marketed at children is like ‘feeding your child with heaps of added sugar’. He is calling on parents to protect their children from ‘dark, demonic literature carefully sprinkled with ideas of magic, of control and of ghostly and frightening stories’ and expressed outrage that no licence is required to buy such books.
‘I want children to read literature that is conducive to their age and leave those mystical and frightening texts for when they can discern reality and when they have first learned to love beauty,’ Whiting said. ‘Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games and Terry Pratchett, to mention only a few of the modern world’s ‘must-haves’, contain deeply insensitive and addictive material which I am certain encourages difficult behaviour in children; yet they can be bought without a special licence and can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children, many of whom may be added to the current statistics of mentally ill young children.’
Whiting listed his favourite authors as Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Dickens and Shakespeare, but didn’t acknowledge that those writers drew on supernatural and violent themes in their works. I take the view that all reading is beneficial as long as children or not frightened or shocked by what they read. Even at the age of twelve or thirteen, they are savvy enough to understand that books such as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter are fiction.
The Acorn School was founded by Graham Whiting and his wife in 1991. Pupils do not wear uniform or take state exams and earned an ‘outstanding’ rating in Ofsted’s latest report.