A highly controversial Government-approved list of authors that would be issued to primary schools is being considered by the national curriculum review, The TES has learnt.
Celebrated children's authors have attacked the idea, which would see primaries working from a selection of officially recommended writers.
The current curriculum sets out the range of literature that primary pupils should be introduced to, including modern fiction by "significant children's authors", as well as long-established children's fiction, poetry, myths and plays. But, importantly, it steers clear of specifying individual books or authors.
While a final decision is yet to be taken on any changes, it has been suggested that reforms could mimic the system in key stage 3, where national rules demand the study of Shakespeare and recommend a list of authors.
But former children's laureate Michael Rosen said: "I'm all in favour of people recommending books to each other. What I'm utterly against is some centralised list which is supposed to be the Government's view or the state's view.
"If (education secretary) Michael Gove wants to suggest his list, that's fine. But if it is the Government's list or the DfE's list, I would profoundly distrust it."
Children's author Alan Gibbons agreed: "What we need to see in schools is trust in teachers and librarians. We need a network of people who know about books and keep up to date with children's literature, who have the freedom to select books according to their pupils' backgrounds and interests."
He added: "Saying `these are the authors who are good for you' is inimical to the whole idea of literature as shifting and changing."
Teresa Cremin, professor of education at the Open University and one of the founders of Coalition for Education in the 21st Century, a network representing academics and practitioners, also has concerns.
"It is much better that they (the Department) encourage the profession to be a reading profession and share a reading culture in schools," she said.
Sue Horner, chair of Booktrust and former acting director of curriculum at the now defunct Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, said: "If you specify particular things, they have the status of `the ones you have to do'."
The National Association for the Teaching of English, in its submission to the national curriculum review consultation, called for the existing secondary reading lists to be scrapped, saying they presented "a confused picture about the range of authors who exemplify what could be studied".
The formal consultation on the review has now finished and the expert panel is drawing together recommendations. The new programme of study in English will be available early in 2012 for a further round of consultation and will be finalised by September 2012.
OVER IN CANADA .Here's quality?
The Canadian Province of Manitoba is one of a handful of territories in the western world that has an English language arts curriculum which includes a quality literature list.
The province's education department makes it clear that inclusion on the list does not mean that the books are endorsed by the Department or carry a recommended designation. Instead the list is made up of books which it says may be considered for classroom use.
The 251 books on the list are published in developmental stages: emergent, beginning, developing, transitional, expanding, bridging, fluent, proficient and independent. It includes:
- The Gruffalo: Julia Donaldson;
- The Shape Game: Anthony Browne;
- Private Peaceful: Michael Morpurgo.
Original headline: By approval of the ministry: author list could be issued to primaries