Clarkson's place in reading drive

7th December 2007 at 00:00
I have always agreed with Alan Gibbons's passionate views on reading and English teaching but his opinions on the most-ordered titles in Boys into Books campaign seem misguided and potentially damaging (Inbox, November 23).

I fear he does not in fact "understand our thinking". Our case is not that "anything that gets boys reading must be good"; rather it is that all young people should be offered a balanced and varied reading diet in which there is room for both Jeremy Clarkson and the engaging and challenging fiction of writers such as Gibbons.

Teenage boys are more than capable of questioning Clarkson's outspoken views and do not simply accept his words as truth as Alan Gibbons implies. The role of a school librarian is to ensure that students are exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion and to help them develop critical thinking skills. School librarians are also highly skilled in developing readers, starting with their interests and moving them on to more challenging material.

In a week when England has fallen from third to nineteenth place in world reading performance rankings and when English pupils have the most negative attitudes to reading in the world we can ill afford to deny our young people the very material they enjoy.

Perhaps, instead, it is time to start listening to what these Boys into Books figures and school librarians have to say and start a real reading-for-pleasure campaign for the national year of reading in 2008, one I hope Gibbons would support.

Eileen Armstrong, School Library Association Chair, Cramlington High School, Northumberland.

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