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School libraries go book spotting

A Pounds 382,000 lottery windfall is behind a plot to raise the popularity of Scottish authors among teenagers. Now read on ...

Around 45,000 books will be heading for school libraries in a literature drive that will see all secondaries sent three free copies of 36 different Scottish titles.

The Scottish Library Association wants to lift the profile of authors such as Iain Banks, Robin Jenkins and A L Kennedy and encourage 14 to 16-year-olds to pick Scottish writers in their review of personal reading in Higher English.

The Scottish Arts Council, which has made the lottery award, says young Scots often avoid native writers. Schools will also receive packages of display and interpretive materials and CD-Roms. A part-time writer-in-residence will be available on a website to answer student queries about texts.

Jenny Brown, the arts council's literature director, said: "This has the potential to inform the reading habits of the next generation. By highlighting certain authors and books it may be possible to encourage people to try books."

Ms Brown said the initiative would counter recent negative publicity surrounding the distribution of Everyman English classics to secondaries. Some librarians said pupils would not read Charles Dickens or Jane Austen and turned them down.

Young people will be consulted about the titles they would like to read. Ms Brown said: "There will be a core of books selected but no prescriptive list for the whole of the country. For example, teachers in Aberdeen could suggest local writers."

A study three years ago by Dr Jim McGonigal, of St Andrew's College, found only around 11 per cent of Higher candidates chose Scottish authors in their review of personal reading. In some schools, a quarter of pupils chose Scottish texts, in others it was below one in 10.

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