Michael Morpurgo, former children’s laureate and author of best-selling novel War Horse, warns of a class split between the ‘haves and ‘have-not’ children.
Mr Morpurgo blamed the reduction of reading to testable units, leading to a climate of ‘fear and anxiety’ and ‘worthlessness’ surrounding literature education.
Mr Morpurgo, president of BookTrust, is due to make the comments at the children’s reading charity’s inaugural ‘BookTrust Lecture’ tonight (Wednesday).
The remarks come shortly after he criticised Theresa May's grammar school plans as 'divisive' and 'quite deeply stupid', and he highlighted the lasting impact that failing his 11-plus exam had on him.
Successive governments are partly responsible because they ‘corral schools and pressure teachers into teaching literacy fearfully’ and ‘insist that measurable outcomes and results are the be all and end all of the education process’, he will say.
He will highlight, ‘an apartheid system of a kind in this country, between haves and have-not children, between those who read, who through books, through developing an enjoyment of literature, can have the opportunity to access the considerable cultural and material benefits of our society; and those who were made to feel very early on that the world of words, of books, of stories, of ideas, was not for them, that they were not clever enough to join that world, that it was not the world they belonged to, that it was shut off from them forever.’
‘Our prisons are full of them, full of those we have failed,’ he will say, adding that the right experience of learning has the power to turn a life around.
The popular author is calling for every primary school to reinstate Storytime at the end of every school day, and make it, ‘a special time, a fun time, devoted entirely to reading, to writing, to storytelling, to drama’.
A longer extract is due to be published in the next issue of Nursery World.