Thursday 26 April 2012

Historic moment on reading for enjoyment in schools

I  have been applying my mind unsuccessfully to the fact that the Ofsted English report 'Moving English Forward' (March 2012) contains this 'recommendation':

All schools should develop policies to promote reading for enjoyment throughout the school.

I've trumpeted it in various places - in one of my 'Dear Mr Gove' letters in the Guardian, at the Children's Laureate meeting with the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb and of course here.

But it's not enough.

It seems to me that we have for the first time ever in history a statement from a quasi-governmental body which backs the idea that schools should do something concrete about reading for pleasure. It supports those thousands of schools which already do things, it gives a rationale or justification for schools to work at this, it would ask of schools which haven't thought much about this to do some work on it.

I really like the fact that it asks the schools to develop the policies rather than it being a hand-down from central government, it hands the initiatives to schools.

So what to do?

I am not 100% convinced that the government is going to turn Ofsted's 'recommendation' into a government 'request' or 'requirement'. As you might imagine, I tried as passionately as I could to put the case for the government to ask this of schools, on the basis that the consequence of doing so would benefit all pupils everywhere but in particular those from homes where there are no books.

Could I make the suggestion that anyone reading this column who is part of any organisation which administers the provision of books, reading and ideas about books think about convening a conference or many conferences or a national conference organised around this matter? As a suggestion, perhaps the brief for the conference would be to create useful working blueprints for schools to use, adapt and develop. The cue or headline for such a conference could be the Ofsted recommendation. Again, I would suggest that those who have already worked up  blueprints for this: the NUT, Booktrust, the Reading Agency, the National Literacy Trust and Calderdale (Deborah Bullivant), CLPE, UKLA, the Campaign for the Book, Just Read  and anywhere else/anyone else could put this together.

This group of people and others have the expertise, the long experience of working in this field. We are at a pivotal moment in this struggle to get a wide variety of reading matter into the hands of children of all backgrounds. This could be a historic moment but it requires of us to take the initiative.

Any takers? Anyone offering a venue? A date? An organising committee?

Let's do it.