Nick Gibb is reminiscing about the books that shaped his childhood. Getting lost in Famous Five adventures on beach holidays in Bournemouth. Illicitly hoarding library tickets so he could stockpile Agatha Christie mysteries. Slogging through The Mayor of Casterbridge for O-level. Children’s books, he says, have even shaped his diet. The Telegraph reports.
“The only reason I love fish is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I can go to a restaurant and there can be the most peculiar fish on the menu and I’ll want it because of Jules Vernes.”
Children’s reading is high on the agenda this week, with World Book Day falling on Thursday. But it is also part of Gibb’s regular workload, as Minister for School Standards.
Gibb believes pupils throughout secondary school should be reading novels out loud in class, a practice he claims is dying out.
“At every stage of my school life we had that, even up to the upper sixth where we did The Grapes of Wrath and The Rainbow. The teacher would read a bit, then somebody else would read a bit, then you’d get chapter two for homework, and then you’d come back and pick it up for chapter three,” he says.
“What’s happening is that too often from Year 7 onwards they’re preparing for GCSEs. So you’re asking a 12-year-old to analyse a piece of literature as though they’re 15 and answering GCSE questions. And I think that’s the wrong approach to literature.”
Children should be reading books without an eye on exams, Gibb insists, but rather to be “gradually introduced to some of the great literature of our country and the world”.
He goes on: “One of my worries is that children in secondary schools are not reading a wide enough array of English literature in English literature lessons.
“Schools are under pressure to perform well at GCSE. Sometimes people think that the best way of doing well is to start preparing for the type of questions that are going to be asked as soon as possible. My own view is that’s not the best way and even if it were I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
When it comes to primary schools, he believes children aged seven and upwards should be reading a 50-page book a week.
“If you encourage children to get into that habit then they will improve their speed of reading and become more proficient readers and then they will just enjoy it more.”
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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