Libertarian. Enjoys politics, technology, music, food and drink.
The Evening Standard is doing a bloody good job this week to expose illiteracy in the capital. We learn that one in three children do not own a book, in some areas one in three children cannot read by the age of 11, and one million adult Londoners are “functionally illiterate.” Today both BoJo and Nick Clegg have come out in support for the Standard’s literacy campaign, in “Parents must read to children if they want them to succeed.”
BoJo said “It’s a modern tragedy that in a culturally rich economic powerhouse like London, a city historically grounded in literature, a child can leave school unable to read.” And Cleggy gave a rare comment on his family life saying, ”I like nothing more than being able to read to my kids at bedtime. It doesn’t have to be for a long time – 10 minutes can make all the difference.”
I had a conversation with a friend a while ago who plans to be a teacher. She’s been in so many primary schools where parents just don’t read to their children, and the concept was alien to me and yet the Standard’s report show the problems might be even more widespread than initially imagined.
For me I remember the Ladybird books, as shown above, telling the stories of Peter and Jane. The first series had no more than a word per page but the concept was meant to teach you the 12 words that make up 25% of our daily language and then the next 100 words which make up another 50%. You can read more about it on Ladybird’s “Key Words with Peter and Jane” website, which features some updated covers of the books (though mine looked much more like the one featured above).
By about the fourth series I remember leaving them behind and going onto better children’s books instead, although the titles now escape me, but the concept worked fantastically. It built the foundation for my own reading and, after the initial series, got me into the concept of storytelling on my own.
This was of course in conjunction with parents who read to me. I always took it for granted that my literacy was anything but the norm as the majority of my primary school friends all enjoyed reading as well. Reading took the back seat in my early teenage years when I turned to other forms of entertainment instead, but when I wanted to return to it – around fifteen or sixteen – it of course came naturally. It worries me a lot that for many young teenagers they would not find it so easy.
Reading is one of my greatest pleasures and one of the things I miss most about my hour long tube journeys to university and forty-five minute tube journeys to work, is that I have lost that time twice a day to read.
I commend the Evening Standard for taking it upon themselves to start this campaign. Following their homeless campaign, the paper is quickly turning into one of the biggest proponents of Dave’s good ol’ Big Society.