I was deeply distressed, but not altogether shocked, this week when I read the statistic that 3 in 10 children grow up in a house without books.
Based on figures released from the National Literacy Trust (where over 18,000 were surveyed), The Daily Mail reported the study found almost 40% of those aged eight to 17 live in homes with fewer than 10 books. However, 85% of those aged eight to 15 own a games console and 81% have a mobile phone.
I was astounded during time spent with primary school children at the inappropriate level of understanding where games, violence and TV shows were concerned but an appalling lack of literacy skills. I remember one six-year-old girl being allowed to watch Celebrity Big Brother and a seven-year-old boy drawing disturbing pictures containing guns and blood. When I spoke to his teacher about this, she explained he was allowed to play games like Call of Duty at home. This same seven-year-old was unable to read the word “sock”.
As a child, I read every spare moment I could. I haven’t changed. I am so lucky that I had parents who, although not prolific readers themselves, encouraged me to read and supported my interests. I was allowed to watch TV – provided they deemed it suitable. As I got older, I was allowed a games console. However, the games bought for me were age appropriate, and my time on the computer was limited.
I still find that nothing compares to a good book for me. I enjoy films, TV programmes and computer games but none of them could replace reading.
As a child – and probably still now – reading was a source of escapism, education and, yes, fun. The amount of things I have learned just this year simply from reading mostly fiction books astounds me.
I still refuse to watch a film before reading the book as I find being presented with the actors inhibits my imagination. I found this out quickly and have had that rule since I was a child.
I’m not suggesting every child should only read and do nothing else. But it is such a shame that they are not encouraged to enjoy this wonderful hobby. The fact is, reading may be a chore when you’re learning but it sets you up for life. Even if you don’t take pleasure in reading for fun, if you don’t learn the basics, you will struggle throughout life. In another job, I met a fifty-year old woman who relied on her kids to help her because she couldn’t read. It was stopping her finding employment and had quite clearly given her a complex. Children are malleable enough to accept that they are being told to do something. By the time the lady admitted she couldn’t read, she was past the point of going to a class to learn. She’d, over decades, built up a fear of learning.
There is no excuse for children not having books in the home. Fair enough, if you are on the bread line and are struggling to put food on the table and clothes on their backs but there are such things as libraries. Take advantage of them – books are free there!! What I really fail to accept though, is that parents would pay for games consoles and mobile phones (both of which are considerably more expensive than a book) instead of encouraging their children to read.
The ability to read is an asset that will see you through life. Without it, you would struggle with recipes, shopping, directions, getting public transport among other things.
Mr Cameron – this is why we need libraries to remain open. We also need a campaign to encourage more parents to take an interest in their children’s learning.