X-Boxes, Hamster and Pizza: Children's letters to Jane Austen

Posted 14 Feb 2018 by Ian Anstice in Jane Austen, Opinion

One of the most lovely things, to me, that came out of the Travelling Letter Exchange project, where people were invited to write a letter to Jane Austen, was the responses of one school from Stockport. Broadstone Hall School got a lot of their children to write letters and they're a real pleasure. Have a look at some of them here.

The letters were written on Halloween, which the kids explained to Jane as being "where you knock on doors and say trick or treat and they give you sweets" and, interestingly (not come across this myself but it's genius), "when you are done you normally go back to my house and count your sweets and whoever has more you get to eat the first sweets".

Jane AustenAnother big topic was how different life is now compared to Jane's time. Transport came up again and again, with bikes, trams, busses and planes being often mentioned. And then there are computers. Oh my, there's a lot about computers, with X-Boxes being the main theme, including the line "I'm nearly always on my X Box because I could literally not live without it". Worryingly for me, books only come up once or twice, although quite a few expressed an interest in reading some Austen one day. Which was nice.Some were also curious as to how Jane herself lived, asking her if she lived in a castle or normal house or if she "struggled for money".

It was fascinating to see how different children's hobbies are now to when Jane wrote. Lists like "thai boxing, guitar, mountain biking and swimming" were not uncommon. Well, Jane might have been able to do two of those I guess. Another child listed hobbies where a whopping two (art and dance) out of three would have been possible for Jane. I don't think Jane did the third one though, which was rollerskating (or did she?). 

Life at school was also a favourite, with comments like "I didn't bring my PE kit. You probably didn't go to school since most girls didn't in your time" showing awareness of how much things have changed. And then there was food.Food was a big topic. Burgers, hot dogs, pancakes and pizza. There was a lot said about pizza. One girl bravely pointed out how much meat is eaten and said that she was vegetarian. My youngest daughter is also vegetarian so more power to her, I say.

Family was mentioned a lot, especially mums, and - for some reason - hamsters. Hamsters are clearly a big thing in Cheadle. Mums were mentioned a lot more than Dads, sorry Dads, with my most cherished comment to Jane being "My life is good because I have a lovely Mum ... I would tell you more about my life but sadly you [Jane Austen] are dead"

There's so much humour in these letters but they give you a real feel for what children consider important. And as long as they can write these down in letters then they give me hope, X Box or no X Box.

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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