A very worrying report was published last week by the National Literacy Trust and reported in the Daily Telegraph. The survey, of 21,000 children in primary and secondary education over the past few years, revealed a steady and concerning drop in the number of pupils reading in their spare time – from 38.1% in 2005 to 37.7 per cent in 2007, 32.2 per cent in 2009 and 30.8 per cent in 2011. Reasons given included an increasing lack of ability on the part of children to sustain focus, and children being worried that they would be labelled a “geek” if they were seen to read. Given that research also shows that children who read at home on a daily basis are 13 times more likely to perform above the level expected for their age in literacy, these statistics are extremely worrying.
Above all, these children who are not reading are missing out hugely – quite apart from the blow to their academic achievement, there is a whole world of imagination and fantastical happenings to which they are being denied access. Reading adds richness to young lives – to the lives of all of us, in fact.
Why is this trend occurring? A number of reasons spring to mind – the prevalence of the seductively passive ‘entertainment’ that is television; the distraction of other technologies such as computers, smartphones, X-boxes and the like; a lack of role models who read and are seen to be enjoying reading (when did you last see a picture of a ‘celebrity’ immersed in a book?); and not enough books in not enough homes – books are no longer seen, universally, as precious gateways to knowledge and understanding.
Whatever the reasons, the results of this research suggest a real poverty in our country – a poverty of creativity and imagination. We must do something about it, so … pick up a book today and show a child that you enjoy reading. Undertake to read for a few minutes a day with your son/daughter/nephew/niece/grandchild.
Reading matters. Do it.