Children 'must be capable of reading Harry Potter by 11'

Every child should be able to read a Harry Potter novel by the time they leave primary school, the Government declared yesterday.

The Schools minister, Nick Gibb, told a conference the country was "lucky that some of the most magical and exciting children's books ever written" were in the English language. He cited the works of Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, and the Harry Potter and Narnia books, The Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh as examples.

Yet up to 100,000 11-year-olds would be unable to read them because they were still struggling to master the basics, he told the North of England education conference in Leeds.

"By the end of primary school, all children should be able to read and enjoy books like Harry Potter," he added. "But too many children can't enjoy these brilliant books because they haven't learnt to read properly."

International research showed England had slid from seventh to 25th place in reading tests and that almost 40 per cent of pupils in England never read for pleasure.