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Classic literature 'could die out in schools'

1st April 2011

There is a chance classic literature could die out in schools, education secretary Michael Gove has warned.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, the minister said fewer than one in 100 teenagers who sat last year's English Literature test at one exam board had studied a pre-20th century novel.

Gove said only 1,236 out of 300,000 read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, while as few as 285 picked up Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.

The fewest number of readers of a pre-20th century book was seen by Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, which only 187 pupils studied, he said.

'We're not picking up enough new books, not getting through the classics, not widening our horizons. In short, we're just not reading enough,' Gove wrote.

More than 90 per cent of English Literature GCSE exam papers focused on post-1930s novels, including Of Mice of Men by John Steinbeck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

'Even when children do engage with books, our constricted exam system doesn't encourage them,' Gove claimed.

Recent research from the University of Dundee showed that children are increasingly opting for books within their reading range, rather than more challenging offerings.

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