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On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

This week: the phrase 'reading for pleasure'

Delight greeted news this week that boys are now as likely as girls to read challenging books - and they are reading them "for pleasure".

The media reports were based on a study by the University of Dundee that examined data on 213,527 pupils. All the children used reading progress monitoring software from the US business Renaissance Learning and the study was funded by, erm, Renaissance Learning.

But that should not be cause for raised eyebrows. Similarly, it would be downright hippyish to suggest that sitting an electronic test for every book you read - the Renaissance approach - might take some of the fun out of it. What set our cynicism sensors tingling were the claims, including from the director of the National Literacy Trust, that the study indicated a revival in reading "for pleasure".

A closer look at the research showed that the most-read book for Year 9-11s was ... Of Mice and Men. The top five included those other modern curriculum regulars Stone Cold, Holes and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. We would love it if John Steinbeck did replace J. K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer in pupils' affections. However, until he does, the phrase "reading for pleasure" is clearly allowing itself to be misused, so it must have a sit on the naughty step.

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