I REALLY don’t think children are as offended or baffled by the language of old books as adults seem to be.

As a child, I had no idea what a ‘Vac’ was. The Famous Five used to go on about the long summer Vac and it meant nothing to me. Were they referring to a vacuum cleaner? Since I wasn’t a) A child in the 1940s or b) At boarding school, what I didn’t know then was that ‘Vac’ was posh slang for the summer holidays.

But that didn’t stop me devouring the Famous Five books. It was Enid Blyton’s series of adventures that set off my lifelong love of reading. They were old-fashioned even when I was a kid, but that didn’t matter to me. In fact, that was the appeal.

I grew up in 1970s West Yorkshire, and went to primary school on a council estate. The closest I got to jolly japes was hanging out by the canal with some other bored kids. It wasn’t exactly Kirrin Island.

The Famous Five, with their lost treasure, secret passageways and smugglers’ tunnels, were from another world - and that for me was the fascination. I dreamed of going to a gothic boarding school and having midnight feasts with lashings of ginger beer. Years later, at university, I had a friend who’d been to boarding school and I asked if it was like Malory Towers, where more of Blyton’s adventures were set. “Pretty much,” she said.

As a kid I liked books set in the olden days, mostly involving servants and horses, because they were so far removed from my own life. I recently re-read Noel Streatfield’s The Vicarage Family, about her Edwardian childhood, a book I loved as a girl. Back then I knew nothing about the 1914-18 war, but I remember being profoundly moved reading about a boy leaving home in an army uniform, never to return. I wasn’t big on fantasy novels but I enjoyed losing myself in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, even though CS Lewis’ religious allegory went over my head.

The point is that books don’t need to be relevant to children for them to enjoy them. Today is World Book Day, celebrating and promoting reading for pleasure - the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, more than family circumstances, parents’ education or income. Books we read as children stay with us for life. That’s not something for adults to be meddling with. How dull old books would be if they were all were sanitised to suit modern sensibilities, by those arrogant enough to believe they know best.

It must be a joyless task to go through the work of a much-loved, genius children’s storyteller and remove words that have delighted children for generations. The recently reported editing of Roald Dahl’s classics, to remove potentially offensive language, has resulted in Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Aunt Sponge in James and the Giant Peach no longer described as ‘fat’. The red pen is wielded throughout The Witches, my favourite of Dahl’s books, with said witches no longer ‘mad’ or ‘old hags’. Even nasty Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress children love to fear in Matilda, is no longer described as ugly. Such shameful censorship dilutes Dahl’s mischief, the delightful darkness of his stories.

The review, carried out by the Roald Dahl Story Company and Puffin Books, has been widely condemned and now Puffin is to release Dahl’s Classic Collection as uncensored originals, alongside edited versions, a move which is probably as much about marketing as anything else.

Why should children’s books be viewed through a modern lens? What’s modern now won’t be in 50 years. There’ll be a whole new set of rights and wrongs by then. Are we to keep watering down literature to suit changing sensibilities?

Children like a good story. They like to be entertained, amused, intrigued, spooked. Is it really so bad for them to read books from another age? It’s the grown-ups who recoil in horror. We should give children more credit.