Gruffalo author: Paedophile threat ‘exaggerated’

THE writer of the Gruffalo has hit out at “neurotic” parents who will not let their children walk to school and claimed the threat posed by paedophiles is “exaggerated”.

Freedom for children is vital, says Julia Donaldson. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Julia Donaldson, who is also a former children’s laureate, says she let her son get the train on his own into Glasgow city centre when he was aged ten.

The award-winning children’s author said it is good for children to get a taste of freedom and urged parents to let them make their own way to school.

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The 66-year-old from London brought her children up in Bearsden just outside Glasgow after her husband became a senior lecturer at Glasgow University.

In 1999 her book The Gruffalo, which tells the story of a mouse taking a walk in the woods, was published and went on to sell more than 13 million copies.

“I do think that children are quite cosseted,” said Mrs Donaldson. “I can understand it in a way because of so much traffic, which is dangerous, but … people do drive their children to school too much.

“I just remember that walk to and from school was so important – that was when you got your first taste of independence. It was a mini-adventure. You might walk along a wall or fall off, or play dares.

“I don’t think the number of paedophiles has increased – I’m sure it is completely the same – but there is so much in the press about it that people are totally neurotic about that and I think it’s a bit exaggerated. But I think the danger of the road is obviously a concern.”

She continued: “One of my sons was 10 and we lived in Bearsden outside Glasgow and every Thursday he would get the train into town and go to Games Workshop and he would get the train back.

“Once there was a strange woman on the train who was talking to herself, so he learned that some people talk to themselves. I’m sure some of the parents at the school thought I shouldn’t be letting him go into town on his own. But when I was that age I was travelling on the Tube in London by myself. I do think children are a bit cosseted.”

She added: “I don’t think you are doing a child a great favour [by cosseting them].

“If by the time they are 16 they have never been on a bus, they are more likely to have something awful happen to them.”

Last week the National Crime Agency said almost one in every 35 men could pose a sexual risk to children.

Research by the agency found that as many as 3 per cent of men could be a potential sex abuser or have an interest in online child porn.

The issue of child sex abuse has been thrust into the spotlight in recent months and years through high-profile scandals including DJ Jimmy Savile’s sex abuse on an epic scale and the grooming-gang scandals in Rotherham and Oxford.