Entertainment & Arts

500 Words: Refugee is Children's Word of the Year

Chris Evans and the 500 Words logo
Image caption Chris Evans has been running the annual 500 Words competition on his Radio 2 show since 2011

Refugee has been announced as Children's Word of the Year after appearing in hundreds of short stories written by young people.

Oxford University Press analysed more than 120,000 short stories submitted to this year's 500 Words writing competition, run by BBC Radio 2.

It found the usage of the word refugee had more than tripled since last year.

Star Wars, Shakespeare, Tim Peake and social media were some of the other most common themes.

The 500 Words writing competition for children aged 13 and under was launched by BBC Radio 2 breakfast show host Chris Evans in 2011.

The OUP said in addition to the significant increase in the usage of the word refugee by this year's entrants, children were also using emotive and descriptive language around it.

Although it wasn't the most common word or theme overall, it was the most notable instance of children being influenced by events in the news.

Image copyright ESA
Image caption British astronaut Tim Peake was among the top 10 famous figures to appear most frequently

Stories featuring the word refugee were most frequently about the plight of children the same age as the writers leaving home and undertaking difficult journeys.

'Rich descriptions'

Vineeta Gupta, Head of Children's Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: "The children writing in this year's competition have demonstrated a sophisticated use of language in their storytelling.

"They have used rich descriptions to convey emotion and have produced powerful stories that resonate with the reader."

Chris Evans said: "This analysis has once again proved fascinating. OUP's research 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."

All the entries were analysed by an academic and technology team from Oxford University, using specialised software.

British astronaut Tim Peake was a new entry in the top 10 list of famous people most frequently appearing in the stories.

David Cameron, Barack Obama and Donald Trump were the most commonly mentioned politicians.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Last year's release of Stars Wars: The Force Awakens influenced many of the entrants

The release of the latest Star Wars movie also caught children's attention, resulting in an increase of words such as lightsabers and Stormtroopers.

The rise of social media remained a strong theme in 2016, after hashtag - and the symbol used to represent it '#' - was named Children's Word of the Year in last year's competition.

The top 10 characters from real life and fiction used in stories included Santa Claus, Zeus, Lionel Messi, Cinderella, James Bond, Snow White and Harry Potter.

William Shakespeare was also commonly used, as events took place across the UK to mark 400 years since the playwright's death.

The OUP said spelling had consistently improved over the last five years, but added some of the most commonly misspelled words included soldiers and minute.

Image copyright BBC / Getty
Image caption Julie Walters and Tom Hiddleston will present awards at this year's ceremony

The live final of this year's competition takes place on Friday morning at Shakespeare's Globe theatre in London.

The Duchess of Cornwall, who is an honorary judge this year, will present the winners' prizes.

Julie Walters, Tom Hiddleston, Warwick Davis, Andy Serkis, Nick Jonas and Raleigh Ritchie will present the awards at the event,

All Saints, One Republic and Foxes will also be performing with the BBC Concert Orchestra and the London Community Gospel Choir during the show.

The event will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans show.

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