According to new research, three children out of ten don’t own any books. And I think that it is likely to get worse. I’m not a pessimist as anyone who knows me will tell you, but on this particular issue I think that we have to start being realistic. The same survey, conducted by the National Literacy Trust, says that four in ten boys, compared to three in ten girls, do not have a single book of their own.
Considering how much we depend on the written word – anything from Twitter to text messaging is now word-based – those children who read less would not only be at a disadvantage, they are likely to seriously lag behind as new technology continues to develop.
As a book lover, I would choose a good book over a TV programme every time but I can see the attraction TV holds for many people, with its already half chewed information nicely packaged and ready to be swallowed as we relax after a hard day at work. So we need to make time for books. We need to remember how different a reading experience can be when we have a real book to hold, smell, leaf through. When we develop a real attachment to a beautiful object called a book, with its illustrations, its front cover, its tea stain on one of the pages that reminds us of the day we read it while enjoying a cup of tea, we enhance the experience of reading. When we make time to sit and read quietly, we start to associate reading with positive emotions. And our children will follow.
Of course, those of us who worry about this are probably exactly the parents whose children already read and have their own books. And those who don’t are likely to be the kind of people who wouldn’t even notice that there is a problem because how would they come across it? And what we will soon have is a social divide that has on one side those who read, and can afford to read, and on the other side those who don’t. Those from the poorer background, with less opportunities to get a good education.
According to Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, it shouldn’t be up to schools to get children reading. But in the real world, if the parents don’t read, the only chance their children have of developing a love of books is precisely through schools. However difficult the task, schools would have to continue or even increase their efforts because those parents would not care.

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Author: Maia Nikitina

Writer, reviewer, blogger.

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