The Evening Standard’s recent “Get London Reading Campaign” is deeply concerning, but it is less to do with the literacy of London’s children, and more to do with the attitudes that have brought it about.
Britain is frequently referred to by the press as a “nanny state”, and this has clearly nurtured a culture of blame and irresponsibility, with more and more people expecting the government to do things for them instead of using their own initiative and taking charge of their lives. Urban poverty is no excuse for poor literacy levels in a city with so many free and easily accessible libraries. As a child, I grew up in an isolated village in the North-west, with poor transport links. My mother, who was a single parent, didn’t own a car and we were dependent on lifts or unreliable and infrequent buses to take us into town. She still managed to source books for me though – charity shops are often full of children’s books, and she would take me to the library too.
Most importantly though, was the love of learning that she instilled in me from such a young age. Even when she started a full time job, she always found the time to read me a bedtime story, or to listen to me read with her. And why wouldn’t she? Reading a child a bed time story isn’t just beneficial to them because it helps develop their imagination and reading skills, it’s great for parents too as it helps develop a routine for your child and get them off to sleep. TV cannot be held responsible for the demise of reading, either. I watched a lot of television as a young child, but I used to practice forming letters as I watched it (thanks Sesame Street!) Consequently, I had a basic level of reading before I started school, allowing me to respond well to the teaching provided.
It is a worthy cause that The Standard has set up, and for children with learning difficulties it may just be the push they need to embrace children’s literature and progress with their reading. However, for the sake of future generations, it is essential for parents to spend time topping up their child’s education at home, too.