Education secretary Nicky Morgan is to ask publishers to cut the prices of classic English novels for secondary schools, in a bid to ensure more teenagers have access to the books.
Ms Morgan is expected to make the request as part of a “rallying cry” to improve literacy, in a speech at Charles Dickens Primary School in Southwark, South London, today.
She will say that all children should have access to “our nation’s vast literary heritage” and that cheaper access to novels by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Emily Brontë would encourage schools to buy in more of the texts.
This would make it easier for teenagers who do not have access to classic novels at home to read the books, she will say.
“In the next five years, I want children in this country to become the best readers in Europe,” she is expected to say.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told TES: “Looking at the scale of the funding pressures on schools, this is a drop in the ocean.
“But anything that helps with costs is welcome, particularly when curriculum changes mean schools may find that, say, Hard Times is a set text but they have 180 copies of To Kill a Mockingbird that are no longer of use.”
Ms Morgan will be joined at the event by the children’s author and comedian David Walliams. It is part of what the Department for Education describes as an “ambitious literacy campaign”.
“At the heart of this campaign is a very simple shared ambition – to get more children reading,” Mr Walliams is expected to say.
“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.”
Ms Morgan will also outline plans to identify the primary schools with the most effective strategies to get young people reading “so that every school can learn from their success”.
The DfE is working with the charity 4Children to create resources that help children to learn to read before they start school.
“There is no silver bullet – no magic wand we can wave to magically transform literacy for every child in this country,” Ms Morgan will say.
“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.”