Before enjoying books in school becomes a lost art, Arts Council England has put training teachers in reading for pleasure at the centre of its strategy for children's literature, announced today.
It plans to fund school library services to spread the word to student teachers about quality children's books. This two-year programme will be followed up with after-school sessions to help teachers keep up with new books and find creative ways to work with authors and illustrators.
The strategy, launched at Newcastle's Centre for the Children's Book, sets the Arts Council's priorities until 2006. It aims to boost the profile of everyone involved in making children's books and draw attention to the help the Arts Council can offer to bring authors and illustrators to a wider public.
The message from two months' consultation is that work with writers in schools is "frustrated by lack of time in the curriculum, lack of awareness of funding and of confidence of individual teachers", says the strategy document by children's literature officer Abigail Campbell.
She said: "Participants were vocal about the need for more creative reading and writing opportunities as part of teachers' continuing professional development, across the curriculum and out of hours."
She now wants to hear from teachers on how the strategy can best meet schools' needs and is consulting the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which covers libraries, to put the training together. A budget has not yet been set.
Teachers and librarians were represented in the Arts Council consultation groups on the strategy earlier this term. Other views were collected from 747 adults and children who attended a South Bank literature festival, and 1,520 over-15s who took part in an omnibus survey.
Of the survey group, 98 per cent thought it was appropriate for schools to encourage reading for pleasure, but the report discovered that many under-12s thought reading in school was about developing literacy skills to write essays.
Another major concern was the lack of diversity in publishing, particularly literature from other cultures.
The Arts Council's Decibel project will produce a booklet of culturally diverse children's literature for London primary schools next year.
However, the report pointed out the relative rarity of bestselling black or Asian children's authors in mainstream publishing.
Full findings of the consultation will be on www.artscouncil.org.uk in January 2004. To add your views, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write to Abigail Campbell Arts Council England 14 Great PeterStreet London SW1 3NQ See the website for details of Arts Council projects, email:email@example.com, tel 0845 300 6100
BOOK MONEY WELL SPENT
Arts Council England asked 10 Year 4 pupils at St Luke's primary, Leicester, how they would spend pound;1,000 to help make sure that there were lots of good books for them to read. The responses included:
* Pay authors more so that they can make the books longer;
* Make more funny books;
* Make more copies of good books so that everyone can have one;
* Put books together into collections so that you can read all the books by your favourite author without having to look for each one;
* Pay for translations so that we can read books from other countries and they can read our books.
The St Luke's children were also asked where they liked best to read. All of them said they liked to read at home - most said in their bedroom.