Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Gift of Reading - Lucy Coats

Yesterday you had John Dougherty's sobering post on a Gloucestershire Councillor's overt 'fibs' about the High Court's judgement on libraries. Today's post will be no less politically-minded, I'm afraid, and what's more I don't have any beautiful pictures of India to console you with.  Instead, I'm going to give you a headline:
Shocking, isn't it?  That's apparently 1 in 3 children.  Yes, that's right.  Your eyes are not deceiving you.

It makes my heart break to read this statistic, let alone to write it down in big, bold letters, and when you add it to another recent statistic, that 24% of adults in the UK have the numeracy skills of a child of nine, or younger, then we are looking at a literacy/numeracy disaster which will affect coming generations in ways which are nearly too dreadful to contemplate.  Except that we must contemplate it. 

I've banged on often about the importance of saving our libraries here and elsewhere, along with many others on this blog.  If all these children do not own a book, for a variety of reasons, many of which are to do with socio-economic factors, where are they most likely to be helped to appreciate that books and reading are important?  School? Of course. But many school librarians have now felt the sharp sting of the axe edge.  So, the local library - if there is one left.  This is why I beg all of you to put a date in your diaries, Saturday 4th February, 2012, which has been designated National Libraries Day. Much will be happening, and your support will be vital.  You can keep an eye on what's going on by joining the Campaign for the Book's Official Facebook page, where you will find regular updates on this and other library news from Alan Gibbons. We must all make our voices heard, and loudly, to preserve what we already have for those millions of children and adults who need access to libraries and books so badly.  Damn those who say libraries are not important, and an extravagance in this time of recession and cuts.  Our libraries are an essential cornerstone of literacy.  They are essential, full stop.

But back to those one in three children who do not own a book.  What could we do about that?  Well, if you want to help right now, at Christmas, in a small way, you could do much worse than support the National Literacy Trust's GIVE THE GIFT OF READING THIS CHRISTMAS campaign, and buy some of their Christmas cards.  A donation of £7 will mean a child gets a book of their own, but you'll have to hurry, because the cut-off date is December 12th.  All of us who read this blog will remember the wonder of escaping into another world through the pages of a book for the very first time.  What better gift to give someone than that?

Lucy's Greek Beasts and Heroes series is available here
'"Greek Beasts and Heroes" is a fabulous introduction to myths for confident readers - perfect for bedtime reading, although you'll probably have to read just one more...the quality is top notch throughout.' The Bookbag
You can follow Lucy on Twitter @lucycoats
Lucy's website is at


Nicola Morgan said...

Great idea and a very true post. Thanks, Lucy. The Gift of Reading idea sounds excellent.

It's very easy to take for granted what we have, and one of those things is a lifelong love of reading. If we can give that to someone else, it's fantastic.

catdownunder said...

I blogged about this a couple of days ago because I have a horrible suspicion that there would be a similar proportion of Australian children who do not have books...and today I had to talk about a teacher who does not think reading fiction is important. I have a horrible suspicion that she is not alone in her belief.
My entire teenage and adult life has been spent trying to help other people communicate - and reading is an enormous part of the communication process. Books make marvellous presents!

Ruth said...

Great post thank you - libraries and reading are something very close to our heart.
Its important that everyone gets out there to fight library closures and reductions where ever they are.

Lucy Coats said...

Nicola - yes, it just takes the right book to 'light the fire' in a young reader's heart.

Cat - that's depressing. From my own point of view, I tell the kids in my writing talks that reading fiction is what made me a writer. I think you cannot write well without having read widely.

Ruth - absolutely. And the earlier we all spread the word about National Libraries Day, the better!

Miriam Halahmy said...

And the thing is - sorry, hobby horse about to start - when I was a kid, we didn't buy books either. My parents couldn't afford it. But lucky ducky us had a library at the end of the road, full of books. So that's how we did our reading. Recently I checked my shelves for a copy of Grapes of Wrath. I'm in a Steinbeck mood. And the book wasn't there. I hadn't read it since I was at school and we didn't own a copy. Instead, we borrowed it from the library and passed it round all five of us. I can afford to buy books now. Those 4 million children NEED libraries.
Thanks for such an important post Lucy.

Nicky Schmidt said...

Ah Lucy... if I think of the number of children here who don't have books, have no access to books or libraries, too many of whom can't even read, then I have to shake my head at how a country like the UK, which has always been a treasure trove of literature, can end up in this tragic state. That the UK is closing libraries when we're trying to find every means of increasing literacy levels - it's well, it's just a travesty. It's like taking something good and throwing it away, while there are so many in other parts of the world who'd grab that with open arms. (Mind you, I suppose we might apply the same to food wastage.)