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Works of fiction teach children to discern right from wrong, says Morpurgo

Library funding has seen a drop of £5.5 million on book expenditure across some areas over the last four years. Picture by Rui Vieira/PA Wire.

LITERATURE is a vital tool in combating a "post-truth" age characterised by politicians who are "so used to not telling the truth", one of Britain's best-loved authors has said.

Michael Morpurgo claimed works of fiction teach children the skills to discern right from wrong at an early age - allowing them to later see through "propaganda".

His comments follow a year in which major electoral contests, including the EU Referendum and US Election, were fraught with accusations that lies were being told to suit political ends.

As a result, "post-truth" was selected as the Oxford English Dictionary's Word of the Year, defined as: "Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

Mr Morpurgo, who made the comments as he criticised cuts to library funding, said: "There's this whole business of post-truth, truth being so watered down now, Brexit did massively.

"We've got a record now as a democratic society where politicians have got so used to not telling the truth, that it is no longer remarkable

"So what it becomes effectively is a propaganda battle. It is ever-more important, therefore, if this is the way that public life is going to go, that the citizens have the means to judge for herself or himself what the truth of the matter is and to go looking for the truth and to ask questions about the truth and not simply to drink in whatever propaganda is being pushed out at you.

"These people are increasingly clever about their propaganda, they know what our aspirations, they know what our weaknesses are and they feed it."

A substantial weight of expert opinion warning against electing Donald Trump and leaving the European Union was not enough to stop the two shock outcomes.

Both contests were awash with slogans alleged to target the public's traditions and values, including Trump's "Make America Great Again" and talk of Britain's "independence day" from the continent.

Mr Morpurgo, a former Children's Laureate and author of more than 100 books, said novels were a vital way of teaching people to see through political spin, as characters' behaviour forces a reader to make moral judgments from an early age.

"Above everything else what fiction does is to make you think for yourself and that's what is wonderful - it both informs you and leaves you to make up your mind about the knowledge and information," he said.

He added: "We have to have an education and intellectual growth when we are young in order to cope with this - it is ever, ever more important."

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