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December 27, 2010


Booktrust schemes should be scrapped.

I was pleased to see the government announce, last week, that funding would be withdrawn from the Booktrust charity’s reading schemes (such as Bookstart) that provide free books to children in England. I’m now irritated to hear that Michael Gove has performed yet another U-turn and decided that the funding will continue.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a keen reader, and a big supporter of child literacy. Reading should be encouraged at every stage of life, if we’re not to turn into a bunch of illiterate delinquents. But the schemes strike me as perfect examples of the kind of wasteful governmental expenditure that we’re trying to get rid of. As with their clothes, children ‘grow out’ of books at an incredible speed. A book that a child receives from the state in January – paid for by tax-payers, poor as well as rich – will sit redundant by the December.

Advocates of the schemes argue that poor children would be disadvantaged by their parents’ inability to buy them books. Rubbish. My parents were never rich and they certainly couldn’t afford to buy books at the rate that their bookworm son got through them! But they took me to the public library – for free – every week, where I borrowed – for free – as many books as I could carry. The habit of reading and the wonder of literature has stuck with me to this day. Every child in this country could benefit in the same way, without the state trying to play the role of the parent.

Of course, the other thing that irritates me about the schemes are their universality. In hardened times, I find the concept of universal benefits to be quite appalling. That millionaire’s children have books paid for by – amongst others – the poorest taxpayers in the country, is truly an abominable state of affairs.

1 Comment
  1. Dec 30 2010

    Anything that takes taxpayers money is not a charity.

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