Having read this article in the Daily Telegraph, which reports Michael Gove as about to begin an initiative to get children reading 50 books a year, with the help of a list of suggested titles to be compiled by 'leading authors', we, the undersigned, have written to the Telegraph as follows:
Everybody must approve of children reading more, so Michael Gove’s wish to raise the number of books we expect our children to read is no bad one in principle. However, the idea of a list of 50 titles ‘that every child should read’ sounds prescriptive and inflexible - likely to concentrate on classics or high-profile books which teaching professionals will already know.
There are plenty of guides to good reading for children: for example the School Library Associations's 'Riveting Reads', or ‘The Ultimate Book Guide’, published by AC Black, which lists more than 700 titles, chosen by a broad field of over 170 children's authors, with short descriptions and links leading from one book to another on the ‘what to read next’ principle.
But in any case there are skilled, professional people who know more about this than we do: librarians. What is needed is a flexible approach which can offer children the books most suitable to their ability and preferences. Librarians can do this. It’s no good suggesting to a child that she ‘should’ read ‘The Wind in the Willows’, if she doesn’t actually like it. Instead of a golden standard, the list of fifty books could become just another bugbear.
It seems perverse to begin this initiative against a background of the proposed closure of a high percentage of English public libraries and the sacking of many school librarians. Fifty books a year would cost well over £300 per child: much better to share them! Perhaps Mr Gove should consider protecting school library provision by law.