WORKING TO PROMOTE THE JOY OF READING FOR PLEASURE IN CHILDREN ACROSS NORTH AYRSHIRE
Having taught English for 23 years, I’m an avid reader whose life has been shaped by the transformative power of books.
Recently I appealed to publishing houses across the UK to donate books I could deliver to school children across North Ayrshire and help cultivate the joy of reading for pleasure. The response was fantastic and I’m in the process of delivering these books, often to their obvious delight. Too many don’t own any books or have them at home.
Reading for pleasure offers so many benefits. It’s a key indicator of a child’s future success. When children learn to read at an early age, they have greater general knowledge, a wider vocabulary, their reading is more fluent, and they have improved attention spans.
Achieving good reading standards is inextricably bound up with closing the attainment gap, improved writing ability, text comprehension, grammar, understanding of other cultures, higher community participation, an improved insight into human nature and better decision-making.
Mature reading skills are best developed by instilling in children a love of literature.
Through a difficult childhood, books were my solace, comfort, escape and respite from a challenging environment.
Every child should have that escape, building literacy, which cannot be just about what happens in class. The ability to read words on a page is one thing, but it’s entirely different to understand how language works and how meaning is created. That’s the true meaning of literacy and is universally desirable.
I grew up in a home without books. For me, libraries were a lifeline. Children without access to books with no opportunity or encouragement to cultivate a reading habit will not fulfil their potential. The evidence is unequivocal. Aside from opportunities for social interaction, warm spaces and digital inclusion, libraries are integral to narrowing the attainment gap. And it’s important that parents too, can easily access books.
Scotland invests millions of pounds in our libraries through the Scottish Library Fund and other schemes. Valuing books and promoting reading is an important principle. Teachers and school libraries are vital, but public libraries allow children and parents to actively and literally discover and explore the pleasure of books together.
Supporting and encouraging reading and literacy should begin early.
The Scottish Book Trust delivers two universal book gifting programmes funded by the SNP Government, Bookbug and the “Read, Write, Count” initiative, which supports families in playing, reading and learning with young children, helping to instil an early love of reading.
Through that programme, all children in Scotland receive 16 high-quality books between birth and eight. Two are also given to expectant parents in the baby box. Scotland now has the largest universal book gifting offer in the world.
Given my lifelong relationship with books, I’m deeply proud of that and the life-changing potential provided for children.
In a digital age, reading and literacy has never been more important. Coincidentally, technology can support reading.
Ultimately, there is huge value in our children learning to appreciate the calm, quiet and powerful joy that reading for pure pleasure brings. Books can be unfailing companions throughout our lives.