Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Cambridge to study computer games

Scene from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Pic c/o of Warner Bros
Films such as the Harry Potter series can have a great influence in children

Computer games and comics are to be analysed alongside the time-honoured classics of children's literature at a new Cambridge University centre.

The ideas children pick up from books as well as other sources will be studied at the university's new centre for the study of children's literature.

Academics argue that books, films and other media, reach children in a way that their teachers and parents cannot.

The centre will be part of the University's Faculty of Education.

The faculty's current teaching programme covers material including ABC books, folk and fairytales, as well as classics like Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

'Trash is popular'

The new centre is being expanded to cover the representation of young people in films and video games, along with children's comics.

On the literature side, modern best-sellers like Harry Potter and the Twilight Series of vampire books will be covered as well as classics such as Alice in Wonderland and Little House on the Prairie.

Professor Maria Nikolajeva, who will be the centre's first director, said it was important to get an understanding of what was influencing young people.

She said: "It's easy to say that these things are just kids' fashions or that they're trash, but I don't believe that's good enough.

"If what we regard as trash is popular with young people, we need to know why and whether, as researchers and teachers, we can offer them something that addresses the same needs but also deals with these themes in a critical and ethical way."

She added many trainee teachers did not understand the significance of the latest children's books or films when they went into the classroom.

"Studying this can help us deal with questions which are important not only for the children themselves, but for adults as well," she added.

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