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Kids today are constantly glued to their smart phones and computer games and have no idea what's going on in the real world!

Well, it might be easy to think that, but it seems it seems to be far from the truth.

Every year for the past six years BBC Radio 2 has run a "500 Words" writing competition for children aged 13 and under. Entrants can write about anything they want, in any style, as long as their submission is 500 words or fewer.

As well as producing some truly sparkling, and often very moving, examples of children's prose, the annual competition has become the source for the world's biggest database of the English language as used by pre-teen children.

Each year, entries to the competition are analysed by the Oxford University Press, using sophisticated computer software to identify how children are using language, the words they use, the way they use them and the things that matter most to them. This year the OUP analysed more than 120,000 entries.

One of the things the results reveal is what has become known as the Children's Word of the Year – the word whose usage has increased most dramatically, indicating its current importance to children. This year that word is 'refugee', proving that – contrary to what older people might think – children are actually very aware of what is going on in the wider world.

Although it wasn't the most common word or theme overall, it was the most notable example of children being influenced by events in the news. Use of the word 'refugee' in this year's 500 Words competition increased by more than 300% on last year, and children used emotive and descriptive language around it.  Many entries were very empathetic, their young writer imagining themselves as refugees and what their life would be like.

Other 'current affairs' themes which featured strongly in this year's competition included British astronaut Major Tim Peake, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, world figures such as David Cameron, Barack Obama and Donald Trump,  and the relaunch of the Star Wars movie franchise.

The top 10 figures from real life or fiction to feature in this year's competition entries included footballer Lionel Messi, Greek god Zeus, Harry Potter, James Bond, Cinderella and Santa Claus.

Chris Evans, who launched the 500 Words competition on his Radio 2 Breakfast show in 2011, said: "This analysis (by the Oxford University Press) has once again proved fascinating. It has shown how aware and engaged children are with the world around them, not just at home, but globally and even inter-galactically.

"The imagination of kids never ceases to amaze me and I'm so proud the competition has again fired up their creativity and shown how talented and inspiring the young people of the UK are."

The winners of this year's 500 Words competition are due to be announced on Chris Evans' Breakfast Show today (May 27th).

 

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