Yesterday, a newly-published report by The Literacy Trust revealed a particularly astounding statistic: that 3.8 million children in the UK do not own a book of their own. That’s equal to 1 in 3 children in the country not having a single book in their home, a figure which has risen dramatically from seven years ago when 1 child in every 10 did not own a book. The sad and shocking figure is the basis for The Literacy Trust’s Christmas appeal, which encourages literature lovers everywhere to give the gift of reading to a child from a disadvantaged background.
Getting children and young people into reading is a top priority amongst us at The Reader Organisation; we want everyone to discover the joys of books, but it is especially important that children experience the incredible imaginative power of reading in their formative years. We are constantly coming up with new ideas to engage children with literature – this year alone we have given away 50,000 free copies of the exclusive-for-TRO book The Unforgotten Coat written by award-winning children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce as part of the biggest Our Read ever, as well as running a range of events and workshops alongside to support the shared reading adventure, and on Sunday we held the second Ha’penny Readings – an event full of fun, laughter and wacky entertainment with lots of reading thrown in, designed especially for kids.
But while the statistics do clearly point to a problem, it’s not just to do with the matter of owning books – but instead whether children are motivated to read them once they have them in their hands. There’s certainly no shortage of books available to buy for reasonable prices and many children across the country are in possession of items that cost much more. The real problem that is to be tackled is a lack of reading aspiration.
The various shared reading projects we run with children – the latest currently being developed in schools in Glasgow – introduce them to the sheer pleasure of books, encouraging their individual passion and enthusiasm for reading to grow and leading them to read more and more often (and perhaps buy a book with their pocket money). Often, it only takes one story being read to a child or one book given as a gift to spark off excitement and a desire for reading that will last a lifetime.