The sobering study shows that the state of children’s book ownership, and associated time spent reading, is in sharp decline. By comparison back in 2005, one in 10 of the children and young people surveyed by the charity said they did not have a book of their own at home.
The charity commissioned researchers to quiz more than 18,000 children aged 11 to 16. Within the findings, 19% of young people said that they had never received a book as a present, while 12% have never been to a bookshop and 7% have never been to a library. Girls are more likely than boys to say that they have their own books.
“With one in six people in the UK having the literacy level expected of an eleven year old, this is of great concern… Numerous studies show that access to books and other reading materials is particularly important in children’s language and literacy development. Receiving books as presents is one way to enrich learning at home and can help to encourage children and young people to enjoy reading for pleasure,” the study explains.
This is the sort of survey that makes me feel genuinely sad. My daughter is lucky enough to live in a home over-flowing with books, and so on the surface of it, I find it hard to even comprehend how a child in Britain could find themselves in a situation where they do not own a single book.
It’s such a shame that earlier this year, the Government slashed funding for its Bookstart scheme, which provided reading packs to parents when their babies are born and then further books at later stages in their child’s development. My daughter was one of the last few children to receive at Bookstart pack on her second birthday, and I remember wishing we could have passed her pack on to a family in greater need.
Libraries so often get over-looked in such conversations. They are such a wonderful and amazing resource, and if their usage and book borrowing rates continue to decline, they will only deplete further. We visit our local library every three weeks religiously, and I have done so with Little I since she was three months old. It doesn’t make me a particularly good mum – I’m just making use of the free resources that we have for children in our area. It can easily fill a morning’s worth of activity time, and we come home with lots of lovely new books to read, for Little I and myself.
Charity shops and car boot sales are other great places to pick up children’s books cheaply, sometimes for as little as 10p. We have discovered some gems in charity bookshops in particular – books in lovely condition going for well under a pound.
If you feel compelled to donate a book to a disadvantaged child in Britain, the National Literacy Trust is organising a Christmas ‘Gift of Reading’ event, which you can buy for yourself or for a book-loving friend. It’s a lovely idea.
I wonder if there are other charities which deal with the donation of books to lower-income families? If anyone knows of any please share details in the comments section below.