I recently got asked by my local infant school if I could help put them in touch with some publishers about supporting their summer reading campaign. I was more than happy to help as it's an issue that I feel very strongly about. It's a known fact that literacy during the six week break without the dedicated push from teachers during school hours - can take a massive plunge.
There are so many factors involved in this. Time: not every parent is able to read to their children the 20 recommended minutes every day. Economy: With families being squeezed even tighter for money, items such as books are being treated as a luxury commodity. With many using food banks to supplement their eating - books for reading are, understandably, not a priority. Lack of infrastructure: with our local libraries disappearing at an alarming rate - so too does an easy access and supportive environment for children to enjoy books. When you think about what we're doing to our children in the long-term it's horrifying.
A child mastering how to read means everything else in learning becomes so much easier. And if a child actively loves to read then so much the better. But the funding cuts to libraries, schools and the tighter economies that parents are facing means this is so much more difficult to achieve. The Government has a responsibility to the future generations and is, frankly, failing miserably in supporting them.
The fact that some publishers are recognising this and starting to work towards stepping in to help - is promising. Every child deserves the same opportunities, a lack of funding and support shouldn't mean a drop in literacy - otherwise the class divides will just get bigger and bigger rather than starting to narrow.
Besides, the publishing industry must also recognise that this is forward thinking. The learning readers of today are the book buyers of tomorrow. And if the next generation don't enjoy books or reading - then we're all out of jobs! :-)
The Bookseller ran the article about it here. Makes for a good read.