The reason so many in the book world reacted lukewarmly to Nick Gibb's words about reading is the record of the Government ("Top marks to our Schools minister", 12 February). The coalition turned down our request to make school libraries statutory, a status prison libraries have. It cut the very successful book-gifting schemes run by Booktrust, and would have cut them even more had we not howled with outrage. It is, as D J Taylor notes, inflicting shocking damage to our libraries. Secretary of State Michael Gove praised a New York reading scheme while failing to mention our own highly successful Summer Reading Challenge co-ordinated by the Reading Agency. We authors love words, but without action to nurture the reading environments in which they nestle, germinate and grow, their power to educate, inform and inspire is reduced.
Campaign for the Book
As a Syrian, it seems that my country and its people have no friends ("All the evidence points to sectarian civil war in Syria...", 12 February). We see the hypocrisy of those now clamouring for our rescue from Assad's regime, be it the US, Nato or the Arab League. Yet what has been astonishing is the lack of support of the anti-imperialist left, which one would think would know better.
I am not in favour of foreign intervention, military or otherwise, yet to merely criticise any effort to stop the regime's violence solves nothing. It is of scant consolation to those dying under bombardment in Homs, Zabadani and elsewhere.
Many people, largely those in jobs, despise welfare claimants as workshy scoundrels ("Fairness for the taxpayer – and for the claimant", 12 February). But in many areas of Britain there are no proper jobs to be had. Iain Duncan Smith and his party constantly bleat about the need to make work pay. But it was the Labour Party that introduced the minimum wage, which meant that work did pay. Before that, in my last job, when the Tories were in power, I would have been significantly better off on benefits.
For most claimants, living on welfare is abject misery, and there is nothing fair about cutting benefits to the disabled. People should respect their welfare system: you never know when you may need it.
The US trade embargo with Cuba is a convenient excuse for British left-wingers to indulge in their admiration of a police state that denies exit visas to people who think for themselves ("Younger Castro steers Cuba to a new revolution", 12 February). However, it was before the US trade embargo that Fidel Castro imposed himself on and killed stone dead the trade union movement in Cuba. That is why the official Cuban labour organisation is excluded from the International Trade Union Confederation: it is a fake.
Your critic's comments on Inspector Montalbano are made from a British point of view (12 February). Italy is a complex country, beguiling and frustrating, made of a criss-cross of cultures and very regionally divided. Having lived for many years in Italy, I recognised distinctly Italian and Sicilian characteristics – drama, emotion, sophistication, childishness and superstition.
A D Bowler
Bridge of Allan, Stirling
As a woman to whom women's dignity matters a lot, there was one thing I always liked about Whitney Houston ("Death of a star", 12 February): despite her stunning beauty, she never indulged in wearing oversexualised outfits when performing. She was always beautiful, but never vulgar, unlike many other female singers, who obediently serve a consumerism-driven world.
Janet Street-Porter defends the Wedgwood collection that faces being broken up and sold (12 February). The National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up to safeguard outstanding items of our heritage at risk of loss to the nation. If Canova's Three Graces, which it helped secure, is somehow a vital part of our cultural heritage, then how much more so the Wedgwood collection, much of it fashioned from our clay by Staffordshire men and women. The collection must be kept intact, and in Stoke-on-Trent.
I was disappointed to read that in Janet Street-Porter's world, women are not only solely responsible for all childcare but also for all domestic tasks. Her intriguing solution that every working woman needs tax-deductible domestic help creates a bizarre scenario in which half the country's women are washing the other half's husbands' socks. Is this the new feminism? And who cleans the cleaner's house?
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