Press release: Nicky Morgan and David Walliams launch literacy drive

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and children’s author and comedian David Walliams today issued a rallying cry to leading publishers, schools and early years providers to join forces in a bid to make English pupils the most literate in Europe in 5 years.

Above all, the role of parents in getting their children reading is critical. To help parents get more children reading before they start school, the Department for Education (DfE) has created new resources in conjunction with 4Children to equip parents and early years providers with high-quality activities and resources that help their children master the essentials of language.

To ensure all children have access to our nation’s vast literary heritage, Nicky Morgan today (24 September 2015) also called on leading publishers to give secondary schools access to classic novels by great English authors such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte at low cost, making sure every young person can discover and enjoy these classic works.

These measures build on successful government reforms that have seen substantial and rapid progress towards tacking illiteracy since 2010. A strong emphasis on high-quality phonics teaching has enabled more children to master the essentials of reading quickly.

At a speech made during a visit to Charles Dickens Primary School in London today, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

If a child fails to learn how to read, the consequences can be nothing short of devastating, holding them back for the rest of their lives.

I am absolutely determined to make sure that every child, no matter where they live or what their background, learns to read, to read widely and to read well – giving them the best opportunity to get on in life.

In fact, we’re going further than that – in the next 5 years, I want children in this country to become the best readers in Europe.

David Walliams said:

At the heart of this campaign is a very simple shared ambition – to get more children reading.

Few things can compete with the joy of getting stuck into a good book and I believe that is something no child should miss out on.

International surveys show that 9- and 10-year-olds in England are currently ranked sixth in Europe – although the best readers in this country are already the best readers in Europe. Nicky Morgan has said she wants to tackle the ‘long tail of underachievement’ which is still leaving too many children behind, in particular the most disadvantaged.

The ambition set out today represents the next phase of an ambitious literacy campaign first launched in August. The campaign also includes partnering with the Reading Agency to extend its popular Chatterbooks model by creating at least 200 new book clubs across the country and a shared ambition to see every 8-year-old enrolled at their local library.

To improve collaboration between schools, the Department for Education will also identify top primary schools with effective strategies for getting young people reading so that every school can learn from their success. This will ensure literacy teaching across all schools is built on the best evidence from organisations such as the Education Endowment Foundation.

The literacy campaign is part of the government’s One Nation approach to social justice which will ensure every child is able to reach their potential, regardless of birth or background.

Evidence shows that children who develop strong reading skills early on are more likely to succeed at school, achieve good qualifications and go on to succeed in their adult lives and the world of work.

Speaking today, Nicky Morgan added:

There is no silver bullet, no magic wand we can wave to magically transform literacy for every child in this country.

But we owe it to our young people to explore every possible path when it comes to getting them reading well, to break down any barriers, support any who are left behind – to introduce every child, from every background to our incredibly rich heritage of world-famous children’s literature.
Then we can trust those books to do the rest.

Notes to editors

  1. In August 2015 Nicky Morgan announced the first steps in the government’s literacy campaign, including:
  • funding The Reading Agency to extend their popular Chatterbooks scheme and set up new book clubs in 200 more primary schools all over the country
  • supporting The Reading Agency to work with schools and get more year-3 pupils enrolled at their local library to help more children get into the library habit early and address findings that show 1 in 7 children aged 8 to 16 rarely or never read outside of school

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