Author of Alex Rider, Foyle's War, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, TV and film writer, occasional journalist.


Anthony Horowitz: politicians shouldn’t force children to read

Originally published in The Telegraph
Anthony Horowitz: politicians shouldn’t force children to read

Speaking at the Telegraph Bath Festival of Children's Literature, Alex Rider creator Anthony Horowitz says that parents, not politicians, should encourage children to read. Article by Lorna Bradbury.

Anthony Horowitz, the bestselling author of the Alex Rider books that are widely credited with getting the nation’s boys reading, said there is no place for bossy government programmes forcing children to read.

Speaking at the Telegraph Bath Festival of Children’s Literature, he called for caution from both parents and politicians.

“I’ve never thought of reading as being something children have to do,” he said. “It shouldn’t be used like a vitamin to make somebody a healthy child … I always remind parents that Dennis Nilsen, the serial killer, was a voracious reader, and it didn’t do him much good, did it?”

He said he disapproved of endless Whitehall meddling, and, reflecting on his time as ambassador for Gordon Brown’s National Year of Reading, said: “I don’t like government programmes. I was at Downing Street with Gordon Brown when he was doing a year of reading, and his interest in reading, as far as I could see, lasted the 30 minutes we were there and then it was all over.”

“All we can do as parents,” he said, “is to enthuse about reading and share it with our children.”

“I’m a big fan of reading with kids at night,” he said, adding that he couldn’t imagine his life without books. “Reading is the most creative thing you can do with your mind equal to writing. You are creating the worlds, creating the action. It’s a pleasure, it’s an escape.”

He made the comments as part of a lively hour-long event at the Bath festival, in front of an audience of hundreds of children. He was launching his new book, Oblivion, published last week, the last in his supernatural Power of Five series in which five teenage heroes join forces to save the world from destruction.

He said that though he viewed his Power of Five series as a kind of Lord of the Rings, the roots for Oblivion lie in what he sees going on around him now.

“If you’re going to write a book about the end of the world, you need to be inspired by something,” he said. “Everything I see on the television, or read in the papers … I get this feeling that something’s gone terribly wrong ... Something has happened to the weather. The banks are collapsing. Our politicians are all found to be crooks. The Arab Spring is leading to a world we don’t quite understand or know. Is Iran about to get the bomb?”

“I don’t think we’re heading for oblivion. I don’t think the world’s going to end any time soon,” he laughs … “Or at least I hope I’ll sell a few copies [of Oblivion] before it does anyway.”

But he said that despite the apocalyptic subject matter of his novel, he feels optimistic about the future. “If you write for young people you have to believe in them,” he said. “My generation has mucked things up … The amount of pollution we’ve caused, the amount of natural resources we’ve taken, the fact that in this country there are almost 1 million young people between the ages of 16 and 26 without employment. That’s a terrible legacy to leave.”

“I could be gloomy, but I’m not,” he added. “I think children are going to do a much better job than we have.”