Imagine not being able to read a book.
Imagine not being able to read a letter.
Imagine not being able to read an instruction leaflet.
Imagine not being able to read this post.
I can’t imagine not being able to read. My earliest memories are of bedtime stories, typically taken from one of Richard Scarry’s wonderful collections. Each night I would look forward to my mum or dad reading to me so I could lose myself in the crazy world of the characters; indeed I became so obsessed with the stories that I learned them by heart and my kindergarten teacher thought I could read fluently at the age of 4! Even though this obviously wasn’t the case, I was fortunate in that I didn’t struggle to learn to read – in fact I couldn’t wait to be able to read independently and find even more stories to enjoy. I also feel privileged to be able to include my passion in the work I do – both as a children’s literature blogger and the work I currently do with the National Literacy Trust.
Disadvantage leads to more disadvantage
Unfortunately, not all children enjoy reading and many leave primary school unable to do so competently: in fact, nearly 50% of children from poorer families are unable to read and understand books, newspapers and websites by the time they leave primary schools, according to research published today by Save the Children. Even more worrying is the fact that these children are as much as seven years behind the more able children in in their age group in their reading, which makes the UK the second worse country for inequality in Europe, just behind Romania.
For this reason, a group of literacy-related charities and organisations, including Save the Children, the National Literacy Trust, the Reading Agency, Booktrust and the National Association of Head Teachers, have joined forces to launch a national campaign: Read On. Get On, with the aim of eradicating illiteracy in primary school children by the year 2025. It sounds like a tall order but, in order to avoid millions of children being denied a basic right and skill, it is essential.
What you can do
While the Read On. Get On. organisations will obviously be approaching political parties and other national groups, there is lots you can do at a local level to help. The Read On. Get On. website recommends the following ways to help:
- Just reading for ten minutes a day can make a huge difference to children’s reading skills.
- Sign our petition asking all the party leaders to commit to ensuring that every child leaves primary school reading well by 2025.
- Sign up to volunteer and help poorer families in your local community improve their reading, their confidence and prospects.
Helping those who struggle with literacy is essential at any age but in order to make a real difference to future generations, it is essential to ensure children leave school able to read. Most of a child’s ability in reading will have been established by the age of 11, as will their pleasure in reading. I won’t be unrealistic here – not every child will adore reading but to give them a chance of enjoying it as a hobby they need positive exposure to books and other media in the first 11 years of their life. Research also shows that children who enjoy reading do better generally in their studies and in life so this is the most vital time to catch them.
Please do keep checking out the Read On. Get On. campaign and have a think about how you might make a difference. We all can.