Book elitism

7th March 1997 at 00:00
Kevan Bleach's article on male underachievement at GCSE (TES, February 14) contains the following paragraph (italics added):

"One way of encouraging boys to read more is to offer them a greater variety of material, even if this means investing initially in magazines, practical non-fiction, TV and film tie-ins or science fantasy. Other activities that could engage unambitious male minds include private and group reading, collaborative book review, use of CD-Roms, book weeks and visiting authors. Then perhaps, they could be nudged into a choice of more reflective material that relies on understanding character or plot or motivation"

Just what is wrong, one may ask, with "practical non-fiction", and exactly what is intellectually unambitious about (among the other activities mentioned) "collaborative book reviews"? No wonder pupils (not, I imagine, just boys) can feel alienated and ignored, if the elitist attitude that traditional fiction is the only worthwhile reading matter continues to thrive in schools, even among teachers who are aware of the dangers of creating an educational underclass.

DR GRAHAM GOULD Department of theology and religious studies King's College University of London

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