Bring Back The Books | Sarah Stook
Reading is a beautiful thing; it allows us to escape real life even with a few pages. We can travel back in time, explore the stars, blast off into the future or just explore contemporary events. There are mysteries to be solved, words to be laughed at, stories to be cried at and romances to fall in love with. Books are brilliant. I wish I could say that we are a nation of readers but that is not the case.
For several years, the National Literacy Trust has surveyed the reading habits of children. In 2019, the organization discovered that only 26% of children spent some time reading each day. This was their lowest percentage on record. It also showed that only 53% children enjoyed reading very much or a lot, another low. Roughly 383,775 children do not have a book of their own and this really impacts their enjoyment and skill in reading. As children grow older, they’re less interested.
It’s not just children who aren’t reading. Only 53% of adults have read a book in the past year and of those adults, only 35% have read 10 or more books in 2020/21. In the 15-24 age group, only 6% read ten or more books per year. That doesn’t make for great reading.
Why Don’t People Read?
● Lack of Literacy- 16.4% of adults (7.1 million people) in England have poor literacy skills. That number is 26.7% in Scotland, 12% in Wales and 17.9% in Northern Ireland. This is pretty awful. Nobody should go through education in our fair isles without having decent reading comprehension. We hear stories all the time of university students who struggle to write at an acceptable level. All adults should be able to read and write well. Those who struggle with literacy should not be left behind, yet they have been.
● Lack of Confidence- If you aren’t a confident reader, it’s understandable if you do not wish to pick up a book. Some people have learning issues such as dyslexia, issues that aren’t often noticed easily.
● Lack of Parental Encouragement- I was blessed with a mum who always encouraged me to read and read to me in turn. Not every child has that opportunity. There are parents and guardians who have no interest in their child’s education. Some parents are too busy trying to put food on the table. The home is an essential place of nurturing.
● Schooling- I was a huge English nerd at school and loved the subject. Not everybody does, however. We sit and analyse literature to death. There’s no encouragement in loving the source itself. It can be boring having to argue why an author has said or done a certain thing. Such a thing can be enjoyable, but we need to promote the text above all else.
● Entertainment- With phones, TVs and the internet, reading has taken a backseat. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old lady, you see it all the time. Infants who can barely talk have a phone stuck in their face. Parents hand screens over to children to hush them. Heck, we adults are guilty of over-use too. Children want quick, addictive access. You can binge TV and play games with great ease.
There is so much that needs to be done to encourage a love for reading. We need to start as early as possible- home ideally, school too. Reading needs to be fun, not a chore. We cannot let anyone get to adulthood without having a decent reading comprehension. Those with learning difficulties need our help and nurturing.
I credit reading from a young age for my love of English and writing. Reading has always given me an escape. I learn new things. It gives me a new perspective. I’ve explored war-torn Atlanta in Gone With the Wind. I’ve seen how an innocent African-American was framed in To Kill A Mockingbird. I’ve followed presidents, First Ladies, monarchs, soldiers and civilians. I’ve travelled from the gang areas of Colombia to the deserts of Saudi Arabia. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried and I’ve wanted more.
I’ve told myself ‘one more chapter’- and lied to myself when saying that. We must encourage a love of reading in everyone. It will enrich every one of us.