Learning to love books counters low literacy levels

World Book Day encourages a love of reading in all ages to counter low literacy levels in the UK.

Co-written with Steff Humm

Literacy in England has become a cause for concern, according to a report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that states that in 2011/12, 15 per cent of the working age population (5.1 million people) were at or below the literacy levels expected of an 11 year old.

Waterstones staff dress up for World Book Day. © Steff Humm

Waterstones staff dress up for World Book Day. © Steff Humm

World Book Day (WBD) is an organisation that tries to counter this statistic by promoting reading as a fun activity in schools. The initiative annually provides book tokens for each child and encourages educators to share their love of reading through engaging activities.

“The main aim of World Book Day are to get children excited about and encourage them to enjoy reading for pleasure,” says Kirsten Grant, director of World Book Day. “As well as to drive footfall in bookshops and to raise the profile of children’s books across all media.”

One in four children can’t read competently by the time they leave primary school, according to a 2014 report by Save the Children. This is significant because reading for pleasure in children has been the only demonstrable link to securing managerial or professional jobs in adulthood, according to ONS.

Figures show that children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to achieve expected levels of literacy and 14 per cent from lower income households rarely or never read for pleasure.

“As a teacher I feel it’s important to encourage and promote a love of learning to all children, regardless of their parent or carer’s background and level of literacy,” says Jennie Keown, who teaches a class of six-year-olds at Merryhills Primary School in Enfield.

World Book Day books on sale at Foyles © Steff Humm

World Book Day books on sale at Foyles © Steff Humm

“We work hard to ensure all children can participate and engage in the learning. This will support them to develop skills in all areas of literacy, which can also be applied to other areas of the curriculum.”

The World Book Day organisation expected to distribute more than 14 million £1 WBD book tokens to children in the UK and Ireland this year – almost one for every child. These can be used to purchase selected books by participating authors and publishers or use them for £1 off any other book. 

“It gives everyone the chance to celebrate books and reading,” says Claire Hill, an ex-librarian at Southgate Secondary School in North London.

“It has been so successful in raising awareness and getting books to those who want them that it has been extended to World Book Night – an initiative to put books into the hands of other groups – adults, teenagers and older people – who may not have access to books of their own.”

There was some controversy this World Book Day when 11-year-old schoolboy Liam Scholes was barred from taking part in the events at his school for dressing up as the eponymous male protagonist from Fifty Shades of Grey.

Claire Hill doesn’t think the celebration of books will be damaged by this publicity:

“In terms of the public perception of World Book Day, it might have raised awareness among those who didn’t know about it, but I don’t think it will have done any harm… The basic idea of a celebration of books will not be damaged.”

Created by Steff Humm

Created by Steff Humm

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