From the TUC

Cuts Watch #335: the Book Trust

24 Dec 2010, by in Cuts Watch

Were you wondering about how to pick some good books for your children? Preferably ones that they’ll enjoy, but that will be useful for them at school as well?

You’re in luck. The Department for Education website has a set of answers to Popular Questions asked by parents and one of them is Where can I find a list of books that will help with my child’s learning? No need to worry, you can ask their teacher, or you can visit the jolly useful website for the Book Trust. The DfE even give you a link to them to be helpful.

And they’re a good charity to link to. As Michael Rosen points out in today’s Guardian, the charity has given millions of children free books, setting them on the road to reading for pleasure. That’s why the Department has, until now, decided that £13 million for programmes run through the Trust is money well-spent. Its not only a remarkably small sum for such an important policy objective, its helped persuade publishers and corporate sponsors to cough up a further £56 million. (Here’s a prediction: if a Big Society initiative gets anywhere close to this success in ‘leveraging’ private sector support we’ll never hear the end of it.)

You know what’s coming next: the Department has announced that all funding will cease. With remarkable restraint the organisationresponded that they were “immensely surprised and disappointed,” pointing out that the government has said that literacy is one of their main educational priorities.

As far as I can make out, the government’s only line of defence is that inspiring a love of reading is really a job for families. (For a no holds barred look at what families are actually saying about this, have a look at the discussion on Mumsnet.)

Update: According to the “Independent on Sunday“, Philip Pullman and Sir Andrew Motion have added their names to the criticism of this cut. “The Observer” adds Carol Ann Duffy, Ian McEwan and Richard Holmes. Unite, which represents Community Practitioners and Health Visitors, has said that their members – who hand out the baby book packs to new mothers – has seen just how useful this scheme can be.