I read some really troubling news today. In the U.K., three out of every 10 children do not own any books — none! No bookcases in their bedroom with Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince, Harry Potter… No parents reading to them before they go to bed. I hope they at least borrow books at a library.
As a children’s book writer, this doesn’t look good for my future financial prospects, but that’s not why it’s troubling. I feel for these kids. They don’t know what they’re missing. I couldn’t imagine my childhood without books. They were my escape when I needed help. Books gave me confidence. The characters were my friends. They were always there for me. And my love of books then has shaped the person I am today.
According to the Guardian‘s report on the U.K.’s National Literacy Trust’s survey, not owning books is potentially damaging to children. Here’s a quote:
Children who did not own books were two-and-a-half times more likely (19%) to read below their expected level than children who had their own books (7.6%), and were also significantly less likely (35.7%) to read above their expected level than book-owning children (54.9%).
And here’s another:
Children who don’t own books “are less likely to have positive experiences of reading, less likely to do well at school and less likely to be engaged in reading in any form,” according to the research. “It is not a case of books being irrelevant now technology has superseded printed matter,” wrote the National Literacy Trust’s researchers Christina Clark and Lizzie Poulton. “Children with no books of their own are less likely to be sending emails, reading websites or engaging with their peers through the written word on social networking sites. Children who grow up without books and without positive associations around reading are at a disadvantage in the modern world.”
The Guardian‘s report says the problem is worse with boys, where 4 in 10 books don’t own books.
Parents are to blame. They set the standard for their children. They are the primary gift buyers.
Couldn’t books be thrown in with the Xbox games? Books are much less expensive. And what are parents reading to their kids before bedtime? The newspaper? It’s sad to think these children are missing out on that bedtime tradition.
But there is something we can all do to stop this problem — because I’d be willing to bet there are similar numbers in the U.S. too. Whenever we’re buying gifts for children, our own or friends’, buy them books.
How did books help you when were a kid?