New classic books in schools initiative launched

Jane Eyre and Gulliver’s Travels will be some of the literary treats offered to schools thanks to Penguin and Schools Minister Nick Gibb.

Press release from: Department for Education and Nick Gibb MP

Anna Karenina, The Thirty-Nine Steps and Twelve Years a Slave are among 100 titles being offered as part of a new initiative from Penguin Classics, following a call for action by Schools Minister Nick Gibb to ensure there is more classic literature being taught in our schools.

The 100 titles – taken from Penguin’s popular Black Classics series – range from the earliest writings to early 20th century works, span fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose, and are intended to offer a springboard for children to discover the classics. All the titles are by authors who died before 1946 and are therefore out of copyright.

Penguin is offering secondary schools classroom sets of 30 copies of each of the 100 titles for a package price of £3,000, allowing pupils to read along with their teacher and classmates.

The Schools Minister wants to encourage debate and discussion among students and members of the public on what classic literature should be read in the classroom.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

It is important that all pupils in secondary school are taught to read and enjoy challenging books from amongst the world’s greatest literature. The first few years of secondary education is an opportunity for pupils to be introduced to such literature free from the constraints and analysis of public exams.

I welcome this initiative from Penguin and look forward to seeing the list grow so schools can discover great books together.

But this is not the end of the debate and I want this to be a springboard for discussion on the impact a great story can have on us all.

Simon Winder, Publishing Director, Penguin Classics said:

For 70 years, Penguin Classics have been introducing the world’s most extraordinary books to millions of readers. The Classics in Schools initiative is a fantastic opportunity to continue with what has always been our mission – to get remarkable, good-value books into the hands of as many people as possible.

We have chosen 100 books from the Penguin Classics series to continue our tradition of engaging the next generation – to surprise, provoke and delight young readers. The opportunity to work with schools to make these 100 books available to their students is a unique one and we are thrilled to be involved.

Nick Gibb wants to encourage more secondary schools to read together as a whole class, ensuring all pupils leave school well read and with an appreciation of a wide range of authors, genres and texts. The list from Penguin Classics is intended to broaden the literature which pupils are exposed to and allow them to enjoy stories and authors which might otherwise be beyond their individual reading level.

The move builds on government reforms which have transformed the way young people learn to read. Since the introduction of the phonics screening check in 2012, 120,000 more children are on track to becoming excellent readers.

The government has already made more than £20 million available for schools to buy and develop resources for teaching phonics. Those who do not reach the threshold in the light-touch check are given extra reading help by their teachers so they catch up early in their school career, before it is too late.

In August 2015, the Department for Education announced its ambition to be the best in Europe for reading by 2020 alongside the first steps in the government’s literacy campaign, including:

  • funding the Reading Agency to extend their popular Chatterbooks scheme which has led to 200 new book clubs being opened in primary schools since September last year
  • supporting the Reading Agency to work with schools and get more year 3 pupils enrolled at their local library to help them get into the library habit early

Scholastic have launched their Scholastic Classics, giving schools and students access to the classics in class sets and packs.

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