Posted by: valtyler | March 25, 2011

“Children as young as 11 should be expected to read 50 books a year as part of a national drive to improve literacy standards, according to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.”

OK, Mr Gove, perhaps you could tell me how this might work. Is there to be a designated list from which children can choose their books and then tick them off one by one, or are they allowed to choose? Does content matter or is it simply the exercise that is important?

When I was eleven we had reading groups at school. I am sure Mr Gove would have approved. I was often the designated reader in my group because I could read faster than anyone else. No one understood what I was saying because I went so quickly, I didn’t understand what I was saying, but we got through more books than any other group and were highly praised for it. Does this count, Mr Gove?

Although I love reading now, I never enjoyed it as a child. My older sister read anything and every thing. Consequently, my parents concluded I was thick and she was bright. The fact that I consistently out-performed her at school was seen as a sort of embarrassment.

My own four children had similar reading ages and similar academic test scores at school, but two simply did not enjoy the process of reading although they always enjoyed me reading to them. Does listening to stories count the same as reading them, Mr Gove?

One of my sons was told that he would never receive an A grade in GCSE English if he did not read more books. Not only did he ignore this, but when it came to choosing two books to compare and contrast, he chose the shortest books on the list. Did he get his A grade? He did more than that, he received full marks.

Now grown-up, all my children enjoy reading, but have the two who did not read as children been held back in any way? Hell, no! Have I been held back? Definitely not! I’m a published author for Pete’s sake! My novels have been used by PhD students in Japan, university students in Germany and school teachers at home. Not bad for a thickie who didn’t read.

Please don’t think that I am saying reading is not important. Of course it is, but why? Are we expecting it to educate, broaden the mind or simply to entertain? What ever the motivation, children don’t need to be handed another target that many will fail. They have enough of those already.




  1. Totally agree, Val! Well said. I read loads of comics as a kid – does that count?!

  2. Totally agree, Val. You can’t force children to read if you expect them to get any enjoyment out of the experience. As a teacher of ten/eleven year olds I feel that one of the most important aspects of my job is to expose pupils to what’s out there and hope they’ll find something that opens the door for them.
    This week, for example, I introduced one lad to “The Hobbit”, found a book on the Zulu Wars for a boy who is a direct descendant of Lt Chard of Rorke’s Drift, persuaded a boy who only reads football annuals to try Captain Underpants, bought a boxed set of sixteen Michael Morpurgo’s titles from a sales rep (£1 each!!!), not with my own money I hasten to add, and drummed up some interest for those. Sometimes, teaching can be so rewarding.

  3. As Gove also wants to retrain squaddies as teachers in order to improve discipline, maybe he really does have a plan to force children to read, possibly using techniques developed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    A couple of years at the chalk face would soon sort him out.

  4. Right all the way, Val! & @ Jon, my teachers who were ex-military were either extremely boring, extremely brutal or just idiotic!

  5. Paul, your pupils are very blessed to have a teacher like you. The thought of squaddies drilling kids to read is both funny and horrific. I wonder how far from the truth it is. Do you think he believes children can be disciplined into reading in a worthwhile way? Heaven preserve us!

  6. There might be an idea for a book in all this, y’know. Squaddy School.

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