Belfast Telegraph

Dame Jacqueline Wilson: Books should be more than testing mechanisms in schools

The writer is backing a campaign to encourage summer holiday reading.

Best-selling author Dame Jacqueline Wilson has urged schools to stop using books simply as “testing mechanisms” and to reinstate a “story hour”.

The writer and former Children’s Laureate, famous for her Tracy Beaker series of novels, has sold over 40 million copies of her books in the UK alone.

Dame Jacqueline, 71, who is backing a campaign to encourage summer holiday reading, told the Press Association: “I think something as lovely and as simple as reading sometimes passes people by.

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Dame Jacqueline Wilson is joined by Sophie Raison, nine, and Elise Whitley, 10, as she helps to launch the easyJet Book Club (Matt Alexander/PA)

“I find it sad that often children don’t have a story hour at school.

“It seems to be simply (that) books are used as a testing mechanism to see if you’ve understood it all. Then you’re able to advance on to the next book.

“Books should be what you fancy reading and having great delight in getting into a story.”

She added: “Nothing is more magical than seeing children peering up at you.”

The author is backing an easyJet initiative, dubbed Flybraries, to encourage children to get into a good book by installing holiday reading libraries across its UK fleet this summer.

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Cabin crew member Katarzyna Malecka and Beth Butler, 10 (right), hand out books to Lilly Pitchfork, nine, and Elvin Buluba, eight, at the launch of the easyJet Book Club (Matt Alexander/PA)

Dame Jacqueline has selected classics such as Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, The Railway Children and The Wizard of Oz for children to enjoy in-flight.

The author, who has published 106 children’s books, added: “At secondary school I still think reading aloud is important.

“I remember being at a conference where the teacher was very pleased that the children read the first seven chapters of a classic.”

When Dame Jacqueline quizzed the teacher about what was so difficult about the eighth chapter, the teacher said: “It’s not that. We haven’t got enough copies of the books so we only use seven chapters.”

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Dame Jacqueline Wilson (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Dame Jacqueline added: “I do think children need to read all the book… Sadly nowadays you can’t pop down to the local library because often they will have closed altogether.”

She said: “If you find that right book for children, it can make them readers for life, what can be better than that.”

The campaign follows research by easyJet showing that more than eight in 10 British parents (83%) say children read less compared to when they were younger.

Children are reading an average of three books over the course of their summer holidays, compared to four books which their parents would have read at the same age.

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