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Nicky Morgan and David Walliams team up for children's literacy campaign

Published 24/09/2015

David Walliams is taking part in the campaign to make English pupils the most literate in Europe in five years
David Walliams is taking part in the campaign to make English pupils the most literate in Europe in five years

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and children's author and comedian David Walliams today join forces to try to make English pupils the most literate in Europe in five years.

They will get together at a London primary school to urge all those involved in education, including parents, to encourage children to read more.

International surveys show that nine and 10-year-olds in England are currently ranked sixth in Europe - though the best readers in England are already the best readers in Europe.

Ms Morgan has said she wants to tackle the "long tail of underachievement" which is still leaving too many children behind, in particular the most disadvantaged.

Today in a speech during a visit to Charles Dickens Primary School in Southwark, south London, she will say: "If a child fails to learn how to read, the consequences can be nothing short of devastating, holding them back for the rest of their lives.

"I am absolutely determined to make sure that every child, no matter where they live or what their background, learns to read, to read widely and to read well - giving them the best opportunity to get on in life.

"In fact, we're going further than that - in the next five years, I want children in this country to become the best readers in Europe."

And she will add: "There is no silver bullet - no magic wand we can wave to transform literacy for every child in this country.

"But we owe it to our young people to explore every possible path when it comes to getting them reading well, to break down any barriers, support any who are left behind - to introduce every child, from every background to our incredibly rich heritage of world-famous children's literature.

"Then we can trust those books to do the rest."

Walliams will say: "At the heart of this campaign is a very simple shared ambition - to get more children reading.

"Few things can compete with the joy of getting stuck into a good book and I believe that is something no child should miss out on."

The role of parents in getting their children reading is seen as critical. The Department for Education (DfE) has created new resources to equip parents and early years' providers with high-quality activities and resources to help children tackle the essentials of language.

Ms Morgan will also call on leading publishers to give secondary schools access to classic novels by great English authors such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte at low cost, making sure every young person can discover and enjoy these classic works.

The ambition set out today represents the next phase of a literacy campaign launched in August, which includes the creation of least 200 new book clubs across the country and a shared ambition to see every eight-year-old enrolled at their local library.

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