Education secretary Nicky Morgan and author David Walliams have launched a government drive to get more children reading.
Writing in the Telegraph, the pair said improving children’s literacy should be a “national mission”.
“For some children, reading is, quite literally, a closed book," they said. "One in five children still leaves primary school unable to read well enough to succeed at secondary school – a figure that rises to one in three of our poorest children. And, if we don’t address illiteracy, it’s the disadvantaged who miss out most of all.”
The government will work with the Reading Agency to set up Chatterbooks book clubs in 200 primary schools and hopes “many other schools” will get involved. It will also “support” the Reading Agency’s goal of getting every eight-year-old enrolled at their local library.
“We also know that library users are much more likely to read in their own time than non-library users, as thousands of children taking part in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge can attest,” said Morgan and Walliams. “But a recent survey by the National Literacy Trust showed that about one-in-seven eight to 16-year-olds rarely or never reads outside school hours.”
They said we live in the “best country in the world for children’s literature”, citing A A Milne, C S Lewis, Lewis Carroll and J K Rowling, adding: “Now we want to make it the best country in the world for children’s reading.”
The pair said everyone has their part to play in improving literacy – teachers, publishers and parents – and praised the work being done by the Read On. Get On. campaign, launched last year by Save the Children.
The article also said the government has already improved literacy. “In 2012, the government introduced a new phonics screening check to make sure all primary school pupils can decode simple words, and to identify any who need extra help with learning to read. Three years on, 100,000 more six-year-olds are on track to becoming strong readers. The proportion of children reading properly by the end of primary school has improved from 83% to 89% since 2010 – 33,600 more children in total.”