Friday, 16 December 2011

Children and books

I'm still thinking about an article that I read last week on the BBC News website - Third of children "without books". According to a new report by the National Literacy Trust, 3.8 million children in the UK do not own a book.

I find this absolutely staggering. I wouldn't want to dispute the research, but I simply cannot believe that there are this many children in the UK without a single book of their own. For a start, babies and toddlers in this country are (currently) given free books through the excellent Bookstart scheme. However this report does concern older children. The majority of the 18,141 children questioned were aged 11-13 years old.

I do remember when I was about 10 our teacher asked us to bring in the books that we had received for Christmas to show to the rest of the class. I had had a bumper year, and I lugged in a huge bag of both fiction and non-fiction books (some of which  I still have today). But I remember that I was the exception, and I was surpised to see that there were children in the class that had received no books, and this was not a school in a deprived area.

I still have a lot of books, although my stash and number of purchases have reduced somewhat since I received a Kindle. I tend to take a fairly fluid approach to books anyway and pass them on when I've finished with them. But even if I don't tend to buy new books for myself any more, I can't resist buying them for the children, and they are constantly being taken out and read.

The lack of books owned by children can't possibly be due to the cost of buying books. Although new books can be expensive, we have bought second hand books in our local library and charity shops for as little as 10p. We've also received books as gifts and are regular visitors to the library for borrowing. So it must be down to the attitude of their parents. I do definitely see a correlation between the number of books that parents have in their houses and the number that the children have. It's understandable that parents that are readers will raise children that are readers, because the children see reading as an enjoyable pastime.

Of course these days much reading is done electronically, and there is still a value for children in reading magazines, newspapers and articles online.  But I must admit that this report has given me lots to think about, and even upset me a little.

I think that books are so important, not just for teaching children to read, but for teaching children about the world, about history, about how other people can have different views, opinions and traditions. They are entertainment, an escape, a source of relaxation. I love nosing at the bookshelves in other peoples' homes to see what they are interested in and what we might have in common. I just can't imagine a home without books, and I find it very sad.

Old books on a bookshelf

1 comment:

  1. I find that really sad. I've actually been culling Kit's book collection because it was getting out of control (at 2 and a half!) because they are so cheap to pick up at charity stores (where they will go back). I can't wait for him to learn to read, we go to the library all the time and he loves books already. I've always been a bit of a bookworm and studied English Lit at uni, but I don't understand why parents wouldn't want to encourage their children to read. Surely a child sitting quietly with their head in a book and not making mess or causing chaos is something all parents would enjoy?! But then I guess most parents these days think that is what DS's are for!

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