Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A shocking fact

Mini-Falaise loves to read.  Obviously, as she’s only 2, she can’t actually read but she is very content to sit on her little stool with a book, turning the pages and saying words that she has heard me or Mrs Falaise use, whilst reading it to her.  She also adores having stories read to her.  No matter what time of day, a suggestion of a story will almost always find favour with her and she is extremely adept at conning persuading me to let her have “just one more” book before bed.  Her book collection is also regularly augmented with new purchases by us or by her grand-parents.

I’ve always taken this kind of thing for granted.  I have been a bookworm since my very early days and have had to deal with the thorny “too many books, not enough space” dilemma more times than I care to remember.  I’ve always assumed that everyone reads, even if it is just the newspaper, and especially that every child reads or has stories read to them.  So I was shocked and upset to read on the Times’ School Gate blog* yesterday about some new research carried out by the National Literacy Trust.

According to their recent report, more children in the UK own a mobile phone than a book.  Yes, you read that right.  The NLT surveyed over 17,000 children between the ages of 8 and 16 and found that 86% owned a mobile phone, whilst only 74% owned a book.  Assuming these figures can be extrapolated, that would mean that 1 in every 4 children in the United Kingdom do not own a single book.  The report went on to conclude that children who owned books tended to be better at reading than those who didn’t.  Although that is probably a bit of a “No sh*t, Sherlock!” statement, it bears thinking about, especially as many of the non-book owning children are amongst the most disadvantaged of the population.  I’m not ashamed to say that I felt the odd tear pricking my eyes when I read this.

Not coincidentally, the NLT has just launched a Christmas appeal to provide books to children in disadvantaged communities in the UK this Christmas.  A donation of just £7 will allow a child to choose a book of their own, possibly the first they have ever owned.  When I think of the pleasure I had as a child, opening and reading a new book and when I feel the joy of reading a book with mini-Falaise snuggled up in my lap, my heart aches in the knowledge that so many children do not get to experience this.  I have un-padlocked my wallet and donated to this excellent scheme and it would be wonderful if you could do so too.  I am sure any amount, no matter how large or small, would be gratefully received by the NLT. If you like to donate or to find out more about the scheme and the NLT, please click here.

* I would post a link to the blog but the Times paywall would block you, unless you have paid, so I haven’t bothered.


Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Shocking data! One of the reason why I love London is that I always see so many people reading in the metro and that books have their own billboards, just like toothpaste and computers. But I guess London is not UK?

But surely children who have a mobile phone are not from the most disadvantaged of the population? Or maybe disadvantaged also refers to more than just money, like parents/teachers/schools who don't encourage reading.

Falaise said...

Thanks for the comment, Alex. I haven't drilled down to see what they mean by "disadvantaged" but, apparently, around 28% of UK children live in poverty once housing costs are taken into account, which would mean that many of them do possess a mobile phone. Poverty appears to be a relative concept here as we are in a developed country.

The two most used definitions for child poverty in the UK are, firstly, where children "live in families which lack the resources to enable their children to participate in the activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged or approved. They are effectively excluded from ordinary living patterns, customs and activities." Secondly, children are in poverty where they live in households where net income is less than 60% of the national median.

I agree that you see lots of books and advertising in London but London contains real extremes of wealth and deprivation.

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