More Free Lunches Demanded…

All children under five in care in London should be sent a free book a month to boost their reading and prospects later in life, the Commons was being told today.

Well, that’ll get rid of a few more unsold Olympics tie-ins, I suppose…

Senior Labour MP John Healey urged Mayor Boris Johnson and his Labour challenger Ken Livingstone to back the Imagination Library scheme,already running in some parts of Britain.Mr Healey said it had significantly increased reading standards in his Rotherham constituency, where all under-fives – nearly 14,000 – are eligible. It has been running there since 2008 and those who take part outperform those who don’t by an average 6.6 per cent, he said.

Is that really a worthwhile investment? And can it be laid solely to the provision of these ‘free’ books? Or might there actually be other factors?

Before his Commons debate, Mr Healey said: “The Standard’s Get London Reading campaign is rightly and widely praised. But getting young kids to love reading often happens at home before school. Children in care can miss out. And once they fall behind, many never catch up again.” The scheme has already been rolled out on a smaller scale to Wigan, Luton and in Scotland.

So, how much does it cost?

He said it would cost £50,000 a year to provide books for 2,000 under-fives in care in London.

OK, well, it’s chickenfeed. But why should the taxpayer fund it?

Why doesn’t Mr Healey just ask publishing companies to donate remaindered children’s books, instead? Or would that not give the required level of political control over the content of those books, maybe?

9 comments for “More Free Lunches Demanded…

  1. stab11
    January 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Of course if the parent(s) can’t be bothered to buy books or even borrow them from a local library its highly unlikely they do anything with some free ones that come through the door are they. I wonder how many of these books sit unopened or even go straight in the bin.

    The political class just don’t get we haven’t got the money for this kind of thing any more do they.

    • January 27, 2012 at 5:26 am

      No. Probably because, for them, the money tap hasn’t even been turned down!

  2. Dave G
    January 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    You can picture it now – each and every book having the EU flag on the cover and being full of EU propaganda.
    To do this kind of thing openly would give rise to immediate derision but to do it under the guise of giving the ‘deprived’ a better chance of succeeding……..

    Call me a cynic……

  3. January 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    “Or might there actually be other factors?”

    Such as the parents of children who are good readers tending to make the most of free book schemes.

    • January 27, 2012 at 5:26 am


  4. Yve
    January 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    The charity shop I volunteer with, sells kiddies books for 50p the majority of them brand new.
    Still, it’s not their money..

  5. Will Jones
    January 26, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Someone made the point about libraries.

    I remember as a pre-teen (less than 20 years ago mind, so not the dark ages of the post-war west when strangers didn’t exit and all glasses had a rose tint to them) making my parents drop me off at the local library on a Sat morning for a few hours while they went off and did the shopping. I’d stay there for 2 or 3 hours looking for books to read for the week until I got picked up and taken to off to play sport in the afternoon.

    It became a habit until my early 20s, though by then it was the uni library where I’d camp out and read for study and pleasure (and to kill time between lectures if needed).

    Now days, I don’t go to them, I can afford to buy the books I want, both analogue and digital types. That said, when I eventually have kids, I’ll be abandoning them at the local library for a couple of hours each Sat morning for their own good; I may even end up sticking around with them.

    • January 27, 2012 at 5:28 am

      If there are still libraries, I assume you mean? Not ‘education centres’ full of everything BUT books… 👿

  6. Maaarrghk!
    January 27, 2012 at 6:27 am

    A case here of leading a horse to water.

    All fine in principle, but….

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