The United Kingdom is facing a literacy crisis of epic proportions as 1.5 million youth are unable to read properly. 11 year old’s were the focus of a new study and it proclaims that unless drastic action is taken, by 2025 the UK will be in dire straights.
A report by “Read on. Get on.” said England is now one of the developed world’s most unequal countries in reading, with the gap between the strongest and weakest equivalent to seven years of schooling.
The problem is acute in low-income groups, in particular white British boys, where 45% reach 11 are unable to read well. A total of 40% of poorer children are not proficient readers – almost double the rate of their better-off peers. The proportion of children reading well by 11 has dropped by 1% in five years since 2008. Even with an average annual improvement rate of 0.5
%, an estimated 120,000 pupils a year will fail to reach a proficient level of literacy – a total of 1,440,000 children between 2013 and 2025.
When children grow up, the ramifications of not reading regularly are having an adverse effect on the economy and higher learning. According to a recent OECD report, it proclaims that three-quarters of UK university graduates do not have high levels of literacy and there are currently 8.5 million adults in England and Northern Ireland with the numeracy levels of a 10-year-old. Basically, the lack of reading comprehension is costing the UK economy £32 billion.
There are various initiatives that are seeking to remedy this situation, such as the Barnes and Noble sponsored “Get London Reading” campaign. Last year there was a read-a-thon take-over of Trafalgar Square which saw a number of West End shows such as War Horse, Billy Elliot and Matilda perform in front of a mesmerized audience of around 20,000 people. B&N also donated 1,000 Nook e-readers to schools and they all included free eBooks from Hachette UK, HarperCollins and Penguin Random House.
Building on the success of the Get London Reading campaign, Barnes and Noble has just announced they are throwing down with the Best Play Award at the prestigious and star-studded Evening Standard Theatre Awards. They will be leveraging this new arrangement to have actress Cush Jumbo, winner of the Burberry Emerging Talent Award at the Evening Standard Theater Awards 2013, to visit a series of schools to read to children. It was also announced that a number of other high profile actors will be reading to students all over London.
Its certainly nice to have e-readers, eBooks and publisher donated books to lower income children to build the foundation of reading, but what can really be done to solve the problem? Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said the research highlighted the vital role parents and carers played in reading with children, even for short periods. “They don’t need to find big chunks of time,” he said. “Parents, carers, grandparents and anyone with a child in their life can make a huge difference by reading for just 10 minutes a day.”
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.