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 celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power