Everyone should be able to read

school_child_absorbing_book_knowledge_1600_wht_12353You would think so yet the UK has one of the worst literary rates in the developed world.

In the OECD only Spain and Italy come out worse than us.

Canada, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and South Korea all have 100% literacy rates.

Here about 1 in 5 children are not reading as well as they should by the time they finish primary school.

Children from deprived backgrounds do worse (there’s no escaping the link between socio-economic group and achievement). For example children on free school meals are twice as likely not to make the grade than other children. Some people blame children’s over-reliance on smart phones and the internet.

A child’s score on literacy at age 7 is a good predictor of lifelong earnings. And at age 10 poor reading exacerbates or contributes to unruly behaviour in the classroom and disrupted lessons. (A professor of education at East Anglia University claimed last week that poor behaviour in classrooms was more prevalent than reported by Ofsted).

Boys seem to lag behind girls when it comes to reading. Jonathan Emmet, an author and illustrator of children’s books, has blamed the fact that most editors and writers of children’s books are women who don’t seen to appreciate that boys want books with technical details about spaceships or some action in them e.g. pirate battles.

He argues that the literacy gap between boys and girls is because boys don’t like reading as much as girls but blames the female gatekeepers who domination the children’s book publishing industry.

He believes women are determined to censor anything that showed bad or destructive things even when they’re clearly done by bad characters. Why do they think children can’t cope with that? Think about fairy tales and nursery rhymes! I loved reading to my kids and that included the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings so plenty of scary stuff in there. Reading bedtime stories is a wonderful experience for adults and children.

It’s estimated that 95% of children’s books are bought by women, so it’s mums and grandmas who decide what kids read based on their own tastes. Watching the lottery quiz show the other day I was saddened to hear a male contestant who had 6 grandchildren confess he never read to them! Men need to get more involved.

As I’ve blogged elsewhere childhood experiences determine how good an adulthood you will have. And reading skills are vital in all walks of life.

Only 1% of people in the UK can’t read at all but “functional literacy” is defined as what you would expect from an 11-year old. Yet 16% of adults don’t reach that standard.

In the USA they doubled the education budgets between 1971 and 2004 with hardly any impact on literacy rates. So as Philip Collins said in the Times, it’s not about money but priorities.

He quotes Michael Gove telling the British Chambers of Commerce that if the conservatives are re-elected eliminating illiteracy will be a mission in the same way our forefathers eliminated TB to allow children to flourish.

Trouble is you can’t always believe election promises can you?



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