Reading is more than the words on a page, more than an exercise in linguistics. Grasping at the page corners waiting to turn to the next adventure; silly voices and watching your child really believe in something. Contact, interaction – reading is, without question, one of the most important things to do with your child.
This week my sister in law gave Arthur a fantastic signed copy of ’We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen. How wonderful. We sat down, snuggled up and read it twice, pointing out the pictures, making funny voices and enjoying the moment. The connotations of being a bookworm are of someone quiet, withdrawn and nerdy, yet books are full of adventure, moments of amazing enlightenment and the chance to use imagination in ways few other activities allow.
Levels and rates of reading among children are falling , I suspect, mainly because parents don’t read to them. A whole generation of children not knowing how amazing it can be…. – it’s sad. But more than that, it’s a dying art. Reading a book aloud requires imagination and with children’s books, often abandoning your inhibitions and putting a little bit of you into making something real.
I’m not naïve, computers are not the devil, PSDs haven’t stolen a childhood. But they’ve given parents a lazy alternative, one that doesn’t require them to be involved but gives hours of child-free time. Oh god, I hope they realise they will have so much of that when their children have grown and gone.
Books influenced my life, Wuthering Heights made me cry, To Kill A Mocking Bird showed me the brilliance of the human condition and The Great Gatsby the utter wastefulness of an unfulfilled life. As I said, it’s more than words.
I want Arthur to have confidence in his ability to read; quietly to himself, immersed in a story, and loudly and proudly to his children and grandchildren. It’s a confidence that permeates beyond the pages to offices, meetings, report writing, soulful evenings spent debating world issues with friends and family. It is a skill we need to save and cherish and hold in the same esteem as getting to level whatever on a Gameboy. How we actually do this is a whole other problem!
Maybe this is a little indulgent middle-class rhetoric but then again, my working-class dad told the best stories in the world and I think he’s partly responsible for my love of language. What a bloody marvellous gift to give me. It’s as if books have become uncool, defunct and pointless they are also a casualty of an ever-increasingly throw away world where no one has time and living in the immediate is more important. They need a makeover and quick.
But more basic than this, we are words; big ones, small ones and all the ones in the middle. They make up our days and if our children were to struggle to read them and make sense of them – what a sad loss for us all.
If you appreciate a book, you will never be alone.
Stats from The Reading Agency UK
- Children and young people who do not achieve expected levels of literacy are likely to be from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- 14% of children in lower income homes rarely or never read books for pleasure.
- Parents are the most important reading role models for children and young people.
- Only 1 in 5 parents easily find the opportunity to read to their children.
There is overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship to people’s life chances. A person with poor literacy is more likely to live in a non-working household, live in overcrowded housing and is less likely to vote.
Literacy skills and a love of reading can break this vicious cycle of deprivation and disadvantage. It is vital that children enjoy reading – motivation is essential for acquiring literacy skills. Reading for pleasure is more important than either wealth or social class as an indicator of success at school
- Yet only 40% of England’s ten year olds have a positive attitude to reading. The figure for Italy is 64% and 58% for Germany.