Pushy parents can put children off reading for life, says new laureate

Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, one of the most successful recent children's books, marked her appointment as Children's Laureate yesterday with a call to arms against "pushy parents", describing them as "a pain" who take the enjoyment out of reading.

"I don't believe you should push your children too hard. They are so sensitive," the author said. "If they are not ready to read it can be detrimental and it is more likely they will be worse off. I really find pushy parents a pain. I have met a lot in my time and while it is important to read, it should be enjoyable. It should be done for pleasure."

The role of Children's Laureate is awarded every two years to an "eminent writer or illustrator of children's books" to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field.

Donaldson, 62, is the author of some 120 books including Room on the Broom, Zog, and teenage novel Running on the Cracks. However, she is best known for The Gruffalo, which has sold more than 10 million copies and tells the story of how a mouse outwits a mythical creature. Donaldson takes over from outgoing laureate Anthony Browne.

Like Browne, who spoke out earlier this week to warn that we will "pay the price in the long term" for closing public and school libraries, Donaldson deplored impending library closures in the wake of national spending cuts.

"I have visited so many libraries in the past 15 years, and while even in the boom years libraries' belts were being tightened, it's crucial that their belts don't get any tighter," she said. "People say it is better than cutting education budgets but frankly, if you increase class sizes you can decrease them again when times are better. But if you sell a library it is very unlikely that you will ever get it back again."

Donaldson said she would soon visit Whithorn library in Galloway, Scotland, which faces imminent closure, and would lend her name to a campaign to save it. She also said she hoped to do a "libraries tour" during her laureateship.

"I feel very strongly that libraries are important for children," she added. "They are fantastic places where you can discover what you like to read, and I'm really worried about having a less bookish society. Libraries are the last bastions of communities in towns and villages."

The author, who lives near Glasgow, wrote The Gruffalo in 1999. It has since been adapted into a West End show and a 30-minute animation screened on BBC1 over Christmas 2009, featuring the voices of Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Wilkinson.

Previous children's laureates include Jacqueline Wilson, the poet Michael Rosen and the novelist Anne Fine. The winner is awarded a bursary of £15,000.

The alternative view

Julia Douëtil, national co-ordinator for reading recovery at the University of London's Institute of Education, said: "It is never too early to start enchanting children with books. It is hard to believe Julia Donaldson would discourage parents from reading with their children from the earliest possible age. The trouble is, we can become so paranoid about them being able to read, that we sometimes forget they have to want to in the first place. We regularly find children who, at age five, have given up on themselves as readers, usually because they have not been exposed to books. My advice to parents is to read to your child from as early as possible and don't stop when they have learnt to read for themselves."

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea