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The importance of books and their regretful decline

Academic Safety papers

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.

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Comments 2

4 January 2016 Reply

My 13 year old never has a book out of his hand and my 8 year old loves factual books. I do believe its the way children are brought up. Both me and their Dad are big readers which has influenced them. Finding something boys are interested in reading is also important too. Its very sad that many children don’t have the opportunity to read, but libraries are a wonderful place and there are many second hand bookshops which have a huge choice. Take away electronic gadgets, put a book into their hand and don’t let the children have the gadget back until they have read. I also believe reading to my children. If you start early, its a natural part of bedtime. My son starting writing a blog a few years ago to recommend books so here is the post if you don’t mind. http://boyreader.blogspot.co.uk/

4 January 2016 Reply

Your son’s blog is awesome, Heather. At only 13, his use of language is testament to his upbringing. We always read to our sons too – and loved getting out the classics that were read to us: anything from ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ through to ‘The Night Before Christmas’! I hope that many young adults like Matthew are inspired by his blog.

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