Sorry class, the classics of English literature are not for the likes of you

4th September 1998 at 01:00
I find the response of some teachers, and now Jean Shoush, a librarian ('Dismal collection of classics' Letters, 14 August) to the gift of an Everyman collection of classic texts deeply depressing. Jean Shoush would not only look a gift horse in the mouth; she would cut its head off and send it back.

What kind of inverted snobbery is it that would deny children of all backgrounds access to these texts? One of the most valuable features of a physical library is the possibility of finding things by accident, of being absorbed by a randomly opened page, of finding evidence that the human condition is universal (and has been for some time).

Of course students will find the texts difficult, but I thought teachers, and librarians, were there to guide them. Have I been wasting my time showing my multicultural class of below average students extracts from Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Charles Dickens, and Sydney Smith?

Or should I have paid more attention to their 'special needs' and told them this is not for the likes of you? (As it happens they found all the extracts very relevant to their lives and circumstances, and even Ms Shoush might find someone she can identify with in 'Hard Times').

Too many young people live cramped lives with narrowed horizons and low expectations. The task of teachers and librarians should not be merely to match books with their small world, but to bring a wider world, and a deeper culture, to them. But it seems that the world of some teachers and librarians is frighteningly small too.

D E Owens. 9, Austenway, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks

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