Hungry for words

When the literacy campaign Read On Get On was launched this time last year, it reported that the UK was headed towards a literacy crisis where 1.5 million 11 year olds would be unable to read properly by 2025. 

It is staggering to see that only Romania has a worse record among EU members. Predictably, the children that fare worst in the UK, are those from low income families, and in particular white British boys, where 45 percent reach 11 unable to read well. There are twice as many poorer children who are not proficient readers, as those from better off families.

As someone who grew up on the fortunate side of this equation, it's hard to imagine a house containing fewer than ten books. But that's how it is for nearly a quarter of 11 year olds. Home is where the joy of reading begins, with bedtime stories, children snuggled up to parents, listening intently, following the shape of the words. Without this nurturing start, children enter the education system woefully ill-equipped - as if setting off on one of the most important journeys of their lives without boots or a map, without any hope of finding the way.

Read On Get On, is a coalition of charities, organisations and individuals - including the Book Trust, National Literacy Trust, and The Reading Agency. Their intention is to encourage parents to nurture early reading with their children, to enhance these essential early language skills.

Dame Julia Cleverdon, chairwoman of the campaign group, whose members also include Save the Children and publisher HarperCollins, said:

"It is tragic and unfair that children from the poorest families and the most deprived communities are least likely to read well at the age of 11 in the UK, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This vital long-term campaign aims to make a life-changing difference for children in poverty and society."

Of course the knock-on effect is enormous. According to research by Newcastle University, if all children were reading well by 11, GDP in 2025 would be £32 billion higher.

Carry on your essential work, writers and illustrators - Our children (and our country) need you!

Don't forget to check out the essential reads on last week's W&P:

Monday's The Buzz, brings a fascinating look at New Adult literature, by Larisa Villar Hauser
Tuesday's Blog Break selection from Nick, covers author photos, to sex in YA
Wednesday's Writing feature, delivers the first in the new Opening Lines series - Shelley Instone examines a selection sent in by SCBWI members
Thursday's Event news flags up the forthcoming SCBWI BI conference, to be held in November
Friday's Featured Illustrator, this month, is Julia Woolf
Saturday's Celebration is of Rebecca Colby's third picture book, Motor Goose

Nancy Saunders is the Editor of W&P. You can find some of her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders

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