A lecturer at the University of Birmingham has praised an exam board's plan to introduce Richard and Judy-recommended texts into its A-level syllabus, claiming it was crucial to getting youngsters interested in literature.
OCR (Oxford and Cambridge and RSA) is to get schools to select three texts in the hope that this will introduce students to a wider range of literature and better prepare them for university. At least one work must be published or performed after 1990, so Richard and Judy's Book Club favourites such as Geraldine Brooks and William Boyd could be included. The new courses will be taught from September 2008.
Dr Danielle Fuller, senior lecturer in the department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham and director of research project 'Beyond the Book', which studies contemporary cultures of reading said: "This OCR initiative is a fun idea with serious potential. I don't think it represents dumbing down. Richard and Judy's Book Club offers a varied list of literary works and Booker Prize winners as well as biographies of footballers and celebrities. It engages younger people and their interests and relates to their everyday lives and the media they engage with, such as Heat magazine, MySpace and Facebook. We have to find ways of making reading relative and fun for young people, not overladen or too serious.
"Popular culture is a good starting point for involving teenagers in reading and writing because it relates to their interests."
She stressed it was important to open up the secondary school curriculum to what young people have heard about in their lives, on the internet or on television.
That meant teachers connecting up to these types of media that young people are already literate in.
"We are now at a generational moment and need to make a connection between digital media and print culture. Initiatives such as Richard and Judy's Book Club have wide exposure on television and the internet and can draw a great deal of interest."