Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Almost 4 million children in UK have no books

According to a recent newspaper report (News Letter 5 December 2011) 3.8 million children in the United Kingdom do not own a book.

The latest report by the National Literacy Trust, based on a survey of 18,000 children, reveals that a third of them do not have books of their own.  Ten years ago the figure was one child in ten but now it is one in three and so the figure is rising.  Moreover, children from poorer families are more likely to miss out and boys are more likely to be without books than girls.

Yes today children have access to information in a wide varety of ways, with new technologies emerging all the time, but the figure is a cause for concern.  Literacy is a basic skill and it is essential if a child is to attain its full potential in life.

I have always enjoyed owning and reading books, indeed my house has books in almost every room, with one room devoted entirely to them.  At times my wife can get annoyed when she falls over piles of books or has to move some of them to get access to a table, but she is very tolerant, most of the time!  That love for books goes back to my early years and has stayed with me ever since. 

For me, no visit to a town or village is complete without a visit to the local bookshop, wherever there is one, and probably a visit to the library as well.

My parents bought books for me and I got books as prizes in school and Sunday School.  Many of them were beautiful books written and published with boys in mind and beautifully illustrated.  They were an important part of my life and I gained hours of pleasure from them.

Even before I could read my parents took the time to sit down and read to me.  Books were always part of our home and there were regular visits to the library.  Those experiences introduced me to books at an early age and helped cultivate a love for reading.

About a year ago I visited Dungiven for the opening of the new library and one of the other speakers was a writer from Londonderry who spoke in similar terms of her experience of books and libraries in her childhood.  Her experience of books and libraries as a child had a profound influence on her and led to her career in writing.  She spoke of the library as a magical place that opened up new worlds for her to explore. 

So here are a few suggestions:
  1. At this time of year, as we select presents for children, picking a book that is interesting and attractive can be a good choice. 
  2. Children often copy adults, so a reading adult sets a good example to a child.
  3. It is good for parents to spend time with their children and to interact with them.  There is no better way to do that than sitting down to read to a child or read with a child.

1 comment:

  1. To be able to be good at any subject you have to be able to read, reading is the key to all knowledge and the fact that nearly 4m children don't own a book is alarming. Reading to children before they can read is crucial and is good practice it is the start.