Anthony Horowitz wants every child in the UK to be given a Kindle for free, using money from fines imposed on banks.
And as much as I am a fan of the paper and hardback, with ebooks outselling print on Amazon for the first time this year (100 to 114 as of August), it’s clear. E-reading technology is the future.
Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether our government agrees. According to Horowitz, when presented with the plan, Nick Gibb, then schools minister, did not bother to acknowledge it with so much as a “two line ‘thank you, go away’ note afterwards.”
In his proposal, among other things, Horowitz calls for silent reading in classrooms. As a classroom teacher of English, I remember only too well a couple of years ago being tasked with enforcing this at the start of each lesson: a sorry challenge, usually met by most with a muted groan because it was another book they’d had to lug around and always with the handful of surly year 8s who misplaced/never had books and so ended up with torn copies of year 11 texts to flick through for ten minutes. Hardly a way of inspiring children to read.
Free Kindles would change this. Choice for readers would be, arguably, limitless (for argument’s sake, I am assuming bankers’ errors could stretch to a library of ebooks).
Feedback from readers on community sites such as Goodreads is instantaneous, passionate and more importantly, two-way with authors. There is a new class of readers and they are young. They want to be enthused and inspired by books. There are amazing things happening to encourage reading in schools RIGHT NOW – and Horowitz’s wheeze is another one. The Evening Standard’s Get Reading Campaign has raised almost half a million pounds for volunteer readers to go into schools and help children who may struggle with the basics.
The London Festival of Education on November 17th will see Horowitz talk about his proposals and I hope the DfE might have had time to do some silent reading of their own by then.