educationIn a survey that may come as an unwelcome reminder to Michael Gove, the much-reviled UK Secretary of State for Education, leading English children’s book publisher Egmont UK has found that most English teachers are crying out for the British government to foster reading for enjoyment in schools.

The Reading Street: Reading and School study found that 82 percent of UK primary school teachers surveyed in its poll believe that “the government is not doing enough to encourage reading for pleasure amongst children.” [Thanks to TeleRead’s Chris Meadows for alerting me to this.]

I have to say it really doesn’t help Egmont’s case that their press release is entitled: “Teachers Say Straightjacket Education Policy is Squeezing Children’s Reading.” What can you do when even the teachers and children’s book publishers can’t spell ‘straitjacket’ properly? Is a revised UK children’s reading syllabus going to include an André Gide novel entitled “Straight Is the Gate“?

Sorry for that labored piece of pedantry, people, but you get the point: If Egmont and their allies, with every justification, are going to lecture the government on education, they seriously need to watch their own standards.

educationAll the same, their poll results make sobering reading:

“(66%) of teachers cite lack of time as a major barrier to being able to properly develop a pupil’s love of reading. Over half (58%) of teachers said they have seen a decline in reading for pleasure over the course of their career, with four in five teachers citing government policy as responsible for this trend.”

So there you have it: Eighty percent of UK teachers feel the government is directly responsible for killing British children’s pleasure in reading. Given that, it’s worrying, but not surprising, that the survey also found that “only 2% of teachers estimate the majority of their pupils are read to on a daily basis by their parents, yet 95% of teachers believe that parents are the biggest influencers on children reading for pleasure.”

Digital media gets a mixed report card in the study. “Over half (52%) point to digital media as a barrier to developing a love of reading, with 70% who said it is more of an issue for boys than girls,” the Egmont UK release continues. “However, while digital media may be affecting children’s reading time at home, only 19% of teachers believe that it is an insurmountable problem. Most teachers think reading for pleasure can co-exist with the digital world, and are adamant children can still be encouraged to be enthusiastic readers.”

Mr. Gove, courtesy of Paul Bernal

Whether all this emphasis on pleasure and enthusiasm will figure high in Michael Gove’s priorities remains to be seen. This is the figure described by Professor Simon Schama, the UK government’s own curriculum advisor, as a “sociopathic, corrupt thug” who ought to be locked in a classroom and forced to teach his own syllabus.

Not much scope for pleasure there.


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