What a growing lad needs is a naughty book, says Blair

THOUGH HE was not much of a role model to inhabitants of Tolkien's Middle Earth, Gollum, the hissing, twisted jewellery thief central to The Lord of the Rings, is the key to encouraging more boys to take up reading, according to the Prime Minister.

Tony Blair believes children will increase their appetite for reading if parents read them "naughty" books with mischievous characters.

Mr Blair will encourage more fathers to read with their sons in an effort to increase their literacy skills. The "Dads and Lads" initiative is part of the Government's National Year of Reading campaign.

The campaign starts today with an interview on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, in which Mr Blair tells how his father used to read him the stories of Robert Louis Stevenson and how he has continued the practice with his own children.

He lists his `literature for lads" which includes Tolkien's Lord of The Rings, the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels charting Sherlock Holmes.

The Prime Minister also stresses the importance of subversion evident in the works of Roald Dahl. Mr Blair said: "I think he was one of the first who would write in a slightly naughty way, which makes books intriguing and interesting."

Other "naughty" books that found favour with Mr Blair's children include the fantasy adventures of Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series abut woodland animals set in medieval times; Paul Jennings, co-author of the Wicked! series of children's thrillers; and Robin Jarvis, author of the Wyrd Museum trilogy.

Last night the Prime Minster received broad support for the "Dads and Lads" scheme but others described his choice of material as "a bit dull" and urged him to highlight more relevant contemporary works.

Anne Barnes, general secretary of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said: "The Prime Minister's choices are a bit dated because of some of the class systems and values evident in those works but that does not necessarily mean much to children so long as there is a strong narrative and interesting characters.

"I think the answer to fostering interest in reading is to follow the interests of the child.Parents should also try to read something which interests them because a child will pick up on the adult's enthusiasm.

"I'm not sure how many fathers will start reading to their sons because Tony Blair says so but the fact remains that we should support any effort to increase reading among boys."

The Government's focus on boys rather than girls at the start of the National Year of Reading has been prompted by research showing a widening "gender-gap" which has seen girls outstripping their male fellow-pupils at all exam levels.

Research by the National Literacy Trust revealed that primary school boys view reading as wimpish and avoid it, a view often carried through life.

Lads' Literature

The Narnia books

CS Lewis

Lord of the Rings

JRR Tolkein

Sherlock Holmes books

Arthur Conan Doyle


RL Stevenson

Pickwick Papers

Charles Dickens


Walter Scott

The Wyrd Museum trilogy

Robin Jarvis

The Redwall books

Brian Jacques


Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman

The titles chosen by Tony Blair for World Book Day, `Desert Island Discs' and the National Year of Reading

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas