Journal for Language Teaching

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Dahl’s chickens: How do they roost in the 21st century?

C van Renen


Close on two decades after the death of Roald Dahl on 23 November 1990, his legacy as a writer of children’s books is apparent in the continuing popularity of his work and in the establishment, in 2001, of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. The Story Centre itself promotes a love of creative writing through a range of activities for children, which allows them to explore and develop their writing skills. Dahl has left his young and not-so young readers with some memorable characters and situations in tales such as The BFG, Danny the Champion of the World and Fantastic Mr Fox. These three works are fine examples of the timeless quality and appeal that can have a formative influence on the developing young reader. One aspect of this influence is the challenging of established ideas that may perhaps be accepted too easily or uncritically. Another aspect relates to the response of young readers to Dahl’s use of language, something that can provide a ready basis for language study in the classroom. The content and style of many of Dahl’s stories also make them potentially suitable for young readers whose home language is not English. One may conclude therefore that ‘Dahl’s Chickens’, to quote a spoonerism by the Big Friendly Giant, continue to find a roosting place in the minds and hearts of countless children around the world.

Keywords: Dahl, fiction, popularity, contentious, quality, challenging, legacy, story, themes, characters, creative writing, EAL (English additional language)
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