Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, has teamed up with the comedian and author David Walliams to announce plans to make Britain’s young people “the most literate in Europe”.
The plans include creating at least 200 new book clubs in primary schools across the country and ensuring every eight-year-old is enrolled at their local library.
Morgan said all children deserved the opportunity to “read, to read widely, and to read well” regardless of their background: “It’s a simple matter of social justice.”
Walliams, who created the sketch show Little Britain with Matt Lucas, is achildren’s book author and longtime Labour supporter.
He announced in July that he would be backing Andy Burnham in the party’s leadership race, tweeting that he had first met him 10 years ago and was so impressed that he told Burnham he would be the Labour leader one day.
Walliams said: “Books fire children’s imaginations like nothing else can. In a world of the constant distractions of television and computer games, it is more important than ever to encourage youngsters to read.”
The government plans will also involve providing funding to the Reading Agency charity to extend its Chatterbooks scheme, a network of children’s reading clubs.
The charity will also be supported to work with schools and get more year three pupils enrolled at their local library. The initiative will attempt to act on research that suggests one in seven people aged eight to 16 in England rarely or never read outside school.
Figures show a growing number of children do not read for pleasure. Between 2000 and 2009, the average percentage of children in OECD countries who reported reading for pleasure on a daily basis dropped by five percentage points.
In 2012, the government introduced a new phonics screening check as the best way to boost reading standards amid fears children with poor reading skills were slipping through the net.
The National Union of Teachers criticised the policy of promoting phonics at the time, arguing it would send a message to schools and parents that other aspects of reading were less important.
The government claims that the proportion of pupils reaching the expected standard has increased from 58% in 2012 to 74% in 2014 – equivalent to more than 100,000 extra six-year-olds.
Original Guardian article