Nicky Morgan and David Walliams aim to get every 8-year-old a library card

  • Nicky Morgan and David Walliams aim to get every 8-year-old a library card

New programme launched also wants to open hundreds more book clubs

The DfE has announced that this programme seeks to make British children the most literate in Europe, and that improving literacy should be a ‘national mission’.

Recent research showing the importance of reading in bridging the attainment gap means that getting children visiting libraries could be a huge step forward for those from underprivileged areas who are falling behind. Morgan stated: “No matter where they live or what their background, every single child in this country deserves the opportunity to read, to read widely, and to read well – it’s a simple matter of social justice.”

Library usage, of course, has been in decline in recent years, and various campaigns have fought to keep branches open. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy statistics showed that there were just over 4,000 libraries in the country, a decline of 8 per cent since 2009/10. But the number of people borrowing from libraries, as well as staff number, are also in decline, with more volunteers having to step in. The last CIPFA report said there were 282m visits to libraries, whereas in 2010 there were 322m in 2010, a fall of 12 per cent.

With one in five children leaving primary school unable to read well, and one in three disadvantaged children, getting every child access to a variety of books is a noble aim. A lot more still needs to be done to engage these children in reading, however. Leading the old proverbial horse to water springs to mind. But with the Education Secretary and such a beloved children’s author backing campaigns like The Reading Agency’s Chatterbooks scheme it will be interesting to see how far this can go.