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Is ‘The Enemy’ by Charlie Higson suitable for primary school children?

PUBLISHED: 08:13 06 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:24 06 December 2017

Ipswich mum Natasha Brinkley says her daughter Kelsea, 10, has been suffering from nightmares ever since she started reading horror novel 'The Enemy' by Charie Higson at Piper's Vale Primary Academy. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich mum Natasha Brinkley says her daughter Kelsea, 10, has been suffering from nightmares ever since she started reading horror novel 'The Enemy' by Charie Higson at Piper's Vale Primary Academy. Picture: GREGG BROWN

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An Ipswich mother has reignited the debate over how books are deemed suitable for primary school children after her 10-year-old daughter started suffering nightmares from a horror novel.

‘The Enemy’ by Charlie Higson, a post-apocalyptic young adult horror novel, is being read by Year 6 pupils at Piper’s Vale Primary Academy and Murrayfield Primary Academy after both Ipswich schools were taken over by Paradigm Trust in September.

The book is aimed at teenagers but the London-based academy trust insists the horror book is encouraging more children to develop an interest in reading.

Experts believe horror books allow children to engage in adult themes like death and disease.

But Natasha Brinkley, 31, said she was shocked to discover her daughter Kelsea, 10, had been reading the book at Piper’s Vale. The children take turns to read out passages in English.

Pipers Vale Primary Academy in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANTPipers Vale Primary Academy in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT

In the book, set in London, everyone over the age of 14 has succumbed to a deadly zombie virus. Adults hunt down children who must scavenge to stay alive.

A warning message on the book’s official website states: “Contains strong language and scenes of violence.”

Ms Brinkley said: “I would have loved the book as a 14 or 15-year-old but it’s not appropriate for 10-year-olds. It goes into graphic details and they have to say swear words. Kelsea has been having nightmares about zombies chasing her and I’m concerned for her wellbeing. If I let her watch Resident Evil, social services would rightly be on my back. Violence should not be forced into children’s minds.”

She has met with the school’s headteacher, but the book will not be removed. She said parents should have a greater say in what their children read at school.

Kelsea says the book is too gory and prefers Roald Dahl novels. Picture: GREGG BROWNKelsea says the book is too gory and prefers Roald Dahl novels. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Kelsea, who prefers Roald Dahl, said: “It goes into really gory detail. I’d like it when I’m 15.”

The publisher, Penguin, confirmed that the book’s suggested audience was teenagers.

Writing for The Guardian in 2012, author Mr Higson said books should not be dragged into the “how can we expose our children to this filth/violence debate”. He said introducing age ratings could lead to Macbeth and Lord Of The Flies being banned. He added: “(The Enemy) is happily ready by kids from 10 to 50.”

Paradigm Trust said: “The book is taught at the school and indeed across all the primary academies in Paradigm Trust.

“It is a well-written book and has had a very positive impact on children who are reluctant to read.”

Krystal Vittles, children’s lead at Suffolk Libraries’, said: “Children and young people read at different levels and find different subjects engaging or interesting. The Enemy series is certainly very popular amongst many young people.

“There are always lots of recommendations on the Suffolk Libraries website on books for all ages and that you can search for more information about specific titles.

“The website www.LoveReading4kids.co.uk is also particularly useful.

“However, we recommend parents and carers make their own judgement about what is suitable content for their individual child.”

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