Education Secretary advises '50 books a year' for schoolchildren

The Education Secretary has suggested that English schoolchildren should be challenged to read 50 books a year in order to improve literacy standards among youngsters.

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In an interview with The Telegraph, Michael Gove said that the academic demands placed on schoolchildren have been "too low for too long", with many teenagers reading only the one or two books required for their GCSEs.

Mr Gove added that the Coalition Government may not have been "ambitious enough" in its attempts to raise literacy levels in schools and a tour of high-performing schools in the US has convinced him that a more challenging reading programme for children aged 11 and upwards is necessary.

For instance, the Infinity School in Harlem, New York, set its pupils a "50 book challenge" as part of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP).

"Recently, I asked to see what students were reading at GCSE and I discovered that something like 80 or 90 per cent were just reading one or two novels and overwhelmingly it was the case that it included Of Mice and Men," Mr Gove explained.

"Here, kids at the end of primary school are being expected to read 50 books a year. I think we should, as a nation, be saying that our children should be reading 50 books a year, not just one or two for GCSE."

An upcoming review of the National Curriculum is likely to specify the authors children should be reading at each stage of their education but Mr Gove hopes a list of 50 books compiled by leading children's writers and published on the Department of Education website may encourage schools to follow the Infinity School's example.

"The aspiration for someone to read 50 books a year isn't from a school in the poshest part of Manhattan where they are all going to have bound copies of CS Lewis," he added. "This is a school where 83 per cent of the kids are on the equivalent of free school meals, but they still expect them to read 50 books a year."

What do you think? Should children be encouraged to read more or is almost one a week too much? Leave your comments below...