Whilst extoling the importance of books, the National Literacy Trust recently published the disappointing results of their latest survey into the reading habits of 32,000 8-18 year olds. The survey reveals that 1 in 8 children have never received a book as a present – rising to 1 in 5 children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Although there may be ‘more pressing’ issues to tackle in relation to child poverty; the value and power that literacy brings cannot be overstated. Evidence shows that children who develop strong reading skills early on are more likely to succeed at school, achieve good qualifications and go on to succeed in their adult lives and the world of work.
Books are so much more than an academic tool, though – they inspire imagination and creativity; and can instantly transport a reader to far-flung, imaginary worlds where anything is possible. But if you’re looking for a powerful social mobility reason to read – one needs look no further than the remarkable story of A Street Cat Named Bob.
The continuing debate over the merits of ‘real’ books versus eReaders matters not a jot. One of my favourite Stephen Fry quotes is that “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators”. We just need to encourage our young to read – to acquire that thirst for knowledge via whatever means.
I’m sure the demise of the libraries over recent years will not have helped, and although the government and the National Literacy Trust are attempting to reverse this decline by lobbying publishers to reduce the cost of books for children and schools, this does not go far enough. If we really want the next generation to read more, then books should be free to access for all children and readily available in sufficient numbers.
As one of the fortunate generation who could capitalise on the resources and promotions of the now-defunct Bookworm Club – free unlimited access to books in a library club that rewarded prolific readers – I would dearly love to see its reincarnation.
A book is for life – not just Christmas. Make good use of the January sales – give the gift of reading to a child you know.
What are your thoughts on the value of a good reading habit? How would you encourage the young to develop one? Over to you in the comments section below.
- Findings from the 2014 National Literacy Trust’s annual survey
- Facebook page for James Bowen and Street Cat Bob
- Privatise the Libraries…?
- What is Social Mobility?
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