Schools minister wants pupils to read a new book every week

Schools minister Nick Gibb has said that he wants every primary school pupil in the UK to read at least one book a week.

As part of his speech to mark National Storytelling Week, Mr Gibb told an audience at St Andrew’s Primary School in Cambridgeshire, “‘A book a week’ should be the mantra for anyone hoping to eliminate illiteracy in this country.”

Citing findings made by the UCL Institute of Education, he described the huge impact that reading outside the classroom can have on a child’s educational development and social mobility:

“…reading for pleasure is more important than a family’s socio-economic status in determining a child’s success at school. […] Remarkably, the combined effect of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was 4 times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.”

Mr Gibb backed a shift away from teachers using English literature lessons to prepare students in the early years of secondary school to answer GCSE-style questions. Instead he called for pupils to be introduced to the great works of the English literary canon.

Encouraging children to read for pleasure helps forge a love of reading and a passion for literature, which will benefit children for the rest of their lives. I’m often asked which books children should read at home and, as Nick Gibb has said, the children’s books now regarded as classics are a good place to start. I have compiled a reading list with this in mind:

• Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
• War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
• A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
• The Time Machine by HG Wells
• I am David by Anne Holm
• Peter Pan by JM Barrie
• A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
• The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
• Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
• The Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
• Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
• Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
• Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
• Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
• Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
• Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
• Dracula by Bram Stoker
• The Hobbit by JR Tolkien
• The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
• The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Rudolf Wyss
• Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor
• The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Reading these titles will help increase the range of words a child is able to use and understand. In order to receive the full benefit of reading challenging books, children should always have a dictionary to hand to look up difficult words and thus improve their vocabulary.