The National Literacy Trust in the UK recently released new research on children’s book ownership in the UK. I was very surprised to find that in a first world country such as the UK there are still children who don’t own a book. Having been brought up in a family of avid readers I can’t imagine not having books. I look at my nieces and nephews who have more books than you can throw a stick at, literally 100s. In the research done by the National Literacy Trust they found that 383,755 children and young people in the UK don’t have a book of their own. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t books in the house, just that they don’t own one. But I challenge you to think of anyone you know who doesn’t own a single book…..
“On average, children from disadvantaged backgrounds can start school with a vocabulary 19 months behind their better-off peers – a gap they may never recover from. Children with poor vocabulary skills at age five may be up to twice as likely to be unemployed in later life” (source: National Literacy Trust). The lack of vocabulary is from lack of reading – exposure to new words and experiences.
Children who enjoy reading and writing are happier with their lives, research has found that their mental wellbeing is up to three times higher! There are so many reasons for children’s book ownership, apart from the impact on the child, there is also the financial impact on the economy supporting people who aren’t in work, then the passed on impact when those children grow up and have children.
It is Not Just One Book
“Regardless of how many books a family already has, each addition to the home library helps children do better (on standard tests). Each additional book has a greater impact on the performance of someone who only has a small home library than it does on the performance of someone from a home overflowing with books. The second book and the third book have much greater impacts than the 102nd or 103rd.” (source: Pacific Standard)
Just giving a child one book is important, but really children’s book ownership needs to be for a library, not just the one book to really impact and make a difference.
I think that often we are all guilty of thinking that everyone is like us when it comes to things that we take for granted like reading, I mean you can pick up a children’s book from St Vinnies for $1. $1 doesn’t seem like an out of reach amount for anyone to reach, but when it comes to literacy money is only part of the story. If the parents/adults don’t understand the importance of reading and it’s relationship to literacy, overall education & prospects later in life then it doesn’t matter how cheap the books are. It is a matter of education that will help everyone, the child, the parents, the economy, the workforce and ultimately the world – the more literate people we have in the world the more people can make informed decisions.
In Australia, we have the Australian Literacy and Numeracy foundation whose aim is to promote literacy in indigenous, refugee and marginalised communities, which is great, but we mustn’t overlook regular everyday Aussie’s who aren’t getting books. To help with this there is a charity called Books in Homes which has given out of 2.5million books to Aussies since 2001. If you are looking for a home for your secondhand books or want to donate new books check out the two organisations I have mentioned. Here at Story Antics we will be looking through our books over the Christmas break and giving some away in the New Year.