Over-testing ruins the joy of reading, Morpurgo warns

War Horse author Michael Morpurgo has warned that too much testing in schools risks killing the joy of reading for children.

Morpurgo made the comment at the Book Trust Annual Lecture to an audience of publishers and educationalists, where he said schools were being pressured into ‘teaching literacy fearfully’.

Morpurgo said: “When you fail it brings only a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness. It brings fear and shame and anxiety. It separates you from those who have passed, rocks confidence, ruins self-esteem."

The renowned author warned that the current form of testing was helping to reinforce ‘almost an apartheid system of a kind in this country. 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."

“The right book, the right author, the right parent, the right teacher, the right librarian at the right time, might have saved some of them at least, made the difference, shone a light into a dark life, turned that life around."

Morpurgo has called for parents to read to their children every night; a half hour ‘story time’ at the end of the school day; and a halt to library closures.

A Department for Education spokesman commented: “Assessment has always been an important part of education - we know the tests are harder and we are asking more, but we're doing that because we are committed to ensuring opportunity for all.

“Tests should not be a cause of stress for pupils ‎- they are there to help teachers understand where children may need more support and we trust teachers to approach testing in a proportionate manner."

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