The Conservatives are considering pledging to end illiteracy within a generation in its election manifesto, it has been reported.
The promise is wanted by Education Secretary Michael Gove who is expected to outline the plan on Saturday and describe it as a moral crusade to “save lives which are currently wasted”.
He will tell a conference in London the “ignorance” of illiteracy leads to bad behaviour, disruption, and can result in pupils being drawn into gang culture and crime.
Research published last year suggested England's youth was falling behind in literacy in comparison to Asian and European nations.
Each year 75,000 children entering secondary education are below the standard expected of them in reading ability, a failing that can affect their success in most other subjects and throughout their lives. A further 80,000 pupils are behind in numeracy.
Mr Gove will, according to The Times, say in his speech on Saturday: “Critically, we need to ensure that all children leave primary school fully literate and numerate.
“It's those children who arrive at secondary school incapable of reading properly, who find they can't follow the curriculum, who cover up their ignorance with a mask of bravado, disrupting lessons, disobeying teachers, dropping out of school, drifting into gang culture and in the worst cases, ending up in the justice system.”
David Cameron is understood to be considering making the literacy pledge a central part of the Tory manifesto.