National Literacy Trust Survey Reveals Almost 4 million children in UK do not own a book – What can we do?

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Concerns about Childrens’ Literacy in the UK

In September 2011, The National Literacy Trust undertook a survey of school aged children across 111 schools in the UK.  Worryingly, it suggests that 33.2% of children (approximately 3.8 million) in Britain do not own a book.  This has shifted dramatically since 2005 when 1 in 10 children owned a book compared to 1 in 3 in 2011.  The survey reveals that girls and children from wealthier areas were more likely to own a book and that these children were more likely to excel at school.
As highlighted on the BBC website  on 5th December 2011, Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said the steep rise in the number of chilren without their own books was of particular concern. This is what he had to say:

He said: “We know there is a direct correlation between book ownership and childrens’ reading abilities”.

  • “With one in 6 in the UK struggling with literacy it is very worrying that many children could be missing out on opportunities to develop these essential skills.”
  • The trust said that children who owned books were more likely than others to read every day, and that book ownership had a clear link with reading ability.
  • Of the children and young people with books of their own, more than half read above the level expected for their age, with fewer than one in 10 reading below the level.
  • The survey also revealed links between reading ability and receiving books as presents.
  • About a fifth of children said they had never been to a book shop or a library.
  • But the survey also showed that reading any type of material, for example magazines, outside class at least once a month was also associated with greater reading attainment.
  • In light of these findings, The National Literacy Trust have launched  the Gift of Reading this Christmas by asking the public to make a donation which could give a disadvantaged child a book of their own for the first time.You can buy the ‘gift’ for yourself or give the unique present to the booklover in your life. Those giving the Gift of Reading will be able to choose an exclusive Christmas card designed by a children’s author including the wonderful Julia Donaldson & Alex Scheffler who created the Grufallo.
  • To support this wonderful cause and read the original report, please visit the National Literacy Trust website.

Why is this happening?

One of the findings of the National Literacy Trust Survey is that poverty is a factor in children not having access to books.  I don’t think poverty is really the issue here.  Many children from lower income families have access to expensive games consoles, dvds etc.  Books can be cheap.  Going to the library is free and there are numerous charity shops and book fayres where you can pick up childrens’ books for pennies.  I would suggest that lack of the parents’ education have reflected on their children.  If parents were never encouraged to read then why would they consider encouraging this to their children?  This survey shows that children who read at home are more likely to do better at school.  If a parent is not a reader, then they are less likely to gift books and put as much importance on it.  It is up to the parents and family members to encourage reading at home from an early age.

A major concern to the Trust is the steep decline in readers since 2005. This apparently could be in part to blame with the boom in information technology.  Children are texting, on social networking sites, playing computer games, watching dvds and surfing the web.  Of course this is going to have an impact on the next generation.  There is so much more access to entertainment now than the previous generation had.

However, children are missing out out so much by not reading books at home.  This is what one of our students at Kip had to say:

Why I love books by a 9 year old Kip Student.

Heather, aged 9

I enjoy watching films on dvd, but I think reading is much better as I can imagine all the characters so vividly and it boosts my imagination.  Reading means a lot to me as I like to read in bed instead of watching films.  I love to imagine what the characters in a book look like in my mind.  When I am reading a good book, I can read for hours but if I fall asleep, I can pick up the story in my head the next night”.

“I love to read books.  My absolute favourite book is called ” Lily Alone” by Jacqueline Wilson and is about a family of young children and their mum (no dad).  Lily is eleven and the oldest.  Her mum leaves her with her brother and sisters to go on holiday with her new boyfriend, Gordon,  but her mum thinks her ex husband Mikey is taking care of them when he did not receive her message properly and Lily is left alone with her younger brother and sisters and is forced to run away and hide in the park in fear that she would be found and taken into care.”

My Experience as a Teacher

I have been a teacher for over 40 years and since 1999 I have been the person who runs Kip McGrath Education Centres in Scotland.  I also continue to run and teach in my own Tutoring Centre in East Kilbride.  I have found that my own experiences since 2005 reflect the findings of the National Literacy Trust and that the reading age of children is on the decline.  This has been a worry for myself and our other Centre Teachers for a number of years in Scotland.  It will be interesting to read what others have to say on this subject.

As a teacher and grandmother to a 4 and 6 year old, I love getting children to realise why they are learning to read as it is so much fun. Even if you are out visiting with your family, no-one thinks it’s rude if you are reading!!

I always give books and book tokens to my family and I think this is very important.  Of course, no matter how hard we try there will always be those children who are reluctant to pick up a book.  That is why we have compiled the list below of some of the most recent magical books which have been highyl accclaimed to inspire even the most reluctant of readers.

Books To Inspire Reluctant Readers:

Early Readers

Elephant & Piggie – We are in a Book! by Mo Willems – Part of the “Learn to Read” series, this is the latest and possibly funniest story yet about Gerald the Elephant & Piggie.  Be prepared to laugh out loud (children and parents alike) when the pair discover that they are actually in a book and can control what the reader says.  What happens when they discover that there are only so many pages left?

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein It’s time for the little red chicken’s bedtime story —and a reminder from Papa to try not to interrupt. But the chicken can’t help herself! Whether the tale is HANSEL AND GRETEL or LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD or even CHICKEN LITTLE, she jumps into the story to save its hapless characters from doing some dangerous or silly thing. Now it’s the little red chicken’s turn to tell a story, but will her yawning papa make it to the end without his own kind of interrupting?

Princess Poppy Series – The Tooth Fairy by Janey Louise Jones –A brilliant fairytale adventure that little princesses will love, Princess Poppy – The Tooth Fairy comes complete with a lovely pink tooth bag and is guaranteed to reassure little ones when their teeth come loose! With adorable illustrations and an easy to read and easy to follow plot, this is a wonderful bedtime story that kids will ask for time and time again. Poppy is desperate for a visit from the tooth fairy but her teeth just won’t come loose!

Middle Readers

Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng – Molly Moon is treated like dirt in her squat English orphanage, with only her pal Rocky, starry Qube soda ads, and the library stacks to give her comfort. After she discovers Hypnotism: An Ancient Art Explained in her favorite library spot, Molly begins learning the ropes and takes mental control of Petula, the orphanage’s grumpy pug dog, and the nasty staff members. But when Molly finds out that Rocky’s been suddenly adopted in New York, she hypnotizes her way to the city, into Broadway stardom, and — unfortunately — into a wicked professor’s plot to rob a high-security bank. Thankfully, though, she and Rocky finally meet up, and with a few surprises, the two hatch a plan to set things right for themselves and for their orphanage.

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

Another hilarious and moving novel from bestselling, critically acclaimed author David Walliams, the natural successor to Roald Dahl.  A story of prejudice and acceptance, funny lists and silly words, this new book has all the hallmarks of David’s previous bestsellers. Our hero Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the boringest grandma ever: all she wants to do is to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben doesn’t know about his grandma. 1) She was once an international jewel thief. 2) All her life, she has been plotting to steal the crown jewels, and now she needs Ben’s help…

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes – Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane – Katrina – fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz -F0rget everything you know about Hansel and Gretel. What you were told was the lite version, where all the interesting violent bits got cut out, or so the omniscent narrator of A Tale Dark And Grimm would have us believe. AND YOU GUYS, A Tale Dark And Grimm is WAY more kick ass, than the Hansel and Gretel we remember .

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz – What would happen to a fairy if she lost her wings and could no longer fly?  Flory, a young night fairy no taller than an acorn and still becoming accustomed to her wings — wings as beautiful as those of a luna moth — is about to find out.

Older Readers

Artichoke Hearts by sita BrahmAchari – Twelve-year-old Mira comes from a chaotic, artistic and outspoken family where it’s not always easy to be heard. As her beloved Nana Josie’s health declines, Mira begins to discover the secrets of those around her, and also starts to keep some of her own. She is drawn to mysterious Jide, a boy who is clearly hiding a troubled past and has grown hardened layers – like those of an artichoke – around his heart. As Mira is experiencing grief for the first time, she is also discovering the wondrous and often mystical world around her. This is an incredibly insightful, honest novel exploring the delicate balance, and often injustice, of life and death – but at its heart is a celebration of friendship, culture – and life. This book is the winner of the 2011 Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize.

Rise of the Wolf – Werewold by Curtis Jobling ‘You’re the last of the werewolves son. Don’t fight it…Conquer it.’ When the air is clear, sixteen year-old Drew Ferran can pick up the scent of a predator. When the moon breaks through the clouds, a terrifying fever grips him. And when a vicious beast invades his home, his flesh tears, his fingers become claws, and Drew transforms …Forced to flee the family he loves, Drew seeks refuge in the most godforsaken parts of Lyssia. But when he is captured by Lord Bergan’s men, Drew must prove he is not the enemy. Can Drew battle the werecreatures determined to destroy him – and master the animal within?


3 comments on “National Literacy Trust Survey Reveals Almost 4 million children in UK do not own a book – What can we do?

  1. This is a really interesting blog. A survey aired on the BBC last night suggested that the number of teenagers buying books is growing and there is so much excellent literature out there for them to choose from. Thanks for the recommendations – lots of new ones in there for me to have a look at! 🙂

  2. I’ve also noticed a decline in reading and it is more common in boys. Give a child the choice of picking up a book or playing on a games console, then the choice isn’t difficult.
    It is important to stress that reading should be incorporated into daily routine just like brushing teeth. It doesn’t become a big issue then and eventually it will become a habit. The best time to read is just before bedtime.
    Reading is not a punishment and should be viewed as a pleasurable activity, but if you have a child who has reading difficulties, then they will not find this pleasurable. How does a parent help a reluctant reader? How does a parent who has reading difficulties themself help their child? So parents need re-educating and they need to be taught about the benefits of reading, and they need practical advice on how to help their child. games consoles and TV are the perfect tool for getting children to “get out of your hair” for 10 minutes of peice. Shouldn’t this also be the case with books?
    Should the government be doing more to address this issue?

  3. Schools have been aware for some that children’s reading ability has been a problem. They have noticed the effect that children no longer reading for pleasure has on their reading skills.
    I work as a support for learning teacher and in recent years have schools have been buying into specific reading support schemes for ‘reluctant boy readers’ and books with ‘high interest for low ability’ readers. Lists of these book titles are available online.
    The fact is, that learning to read is a combined effort of home and school. Schools can do only so much and the rest is up to the parents. Many parents themselves do not regularly read either books or newspapers. There is no easy answer.
    The best thing that any teacher can hope for is that her children leave her and move on to the next class with a greater love of reading than they had when they came into her class. How will she achieve that?
    When I was still a class teacher I set aside time for children to read every day and provided a range of picture books and easy readers (I was based in Infants at the time)This could easily fit into the ‘carousel’ model of teaching that many of new teachers use.The variety and choice that is available now is amazing. We stocked up our own class libraries when the ‘book man’ visited because on the whole school budgets would not stretch to this. Some teachers called it ERIC time ‘everyone reads in class’. At this set time even the teacher would read a book to show that reading was an enjoyable and worthwhile activity. At some point during the day, every single day, I read to the children something that they chose, a favourite book or chapter from a longer book and I don’t think this should only be in the infant classes. What older child doesn’t enjoy being read to?
    Unfortunately, I noticed that as the curriculum changed and teachers found more demands being made on the timetable they had little or no flexibility and the first things to go were the precious reading times. It takes a brave teacher to decide to keep something if it means that a box somewhere on her list isn’t being ticked.

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