Tag Archives: literacy

The generation of tomorrow and the “embarrassment” of books.

Liz Bury¬† wrote a worrying, yet interesting, article on The Guardian‘s website yesterday (4th October 2013) revealing results from the 2012 Annual Literacy Survey which the National Literacy Trust carried out. ‘Books are deemed a thing of the past by YouTube generation of readers’ – the ’embarrassment’ of books means that children are watching more YouTube videos instead.

It was reported that since 2005, there has been a 25% decrease in the amount of children who read outside school. The National Literacy Trust’s survey included approx. 35,000 young people, and it was thought that almost a third of children aged between eight and 16 do not read any text-based media in their leisure time. In the space of 7 years, the percentage of children who claimed to have read in their own time was down around 10% (38.1% in 2005, compared with 28.4% in 2012).

It is thought that one of the main causes of this is ’embarrassment’. 16.6% of young people said that they “would be embarrassed if their friends saw them read” in the 2010 study; this increased to 21.5% in the 2012 study. Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said that it “is a significant social and cultural trend which needs to be addressed”.

I understand that whilst growing up, children and teenagers constantly feel that they need to ‘fit in’; I remember feeling like that in my younger years. Although I never felt that reading was deemed ‘uncool’ and was certainly not ’embarrassing’. It is harder to accept that this is how children of today feel about reading, particularly given that I never personally experienced this when I was a child. (Perhaps it was because I grew up in the 90’s, before the internet boom??) Saying this, I can only imagine that with the surge in social media sites, YouTube, Vine, and video-based communication, such as Skype, it is a lot easier for children to choose to communicate/search the web through videos as opposed to writing. Douglas mentioned the original thought was that “children’s reading was migrating from print to digital, […] that they were reading ebooks. But […] they are consuming information in ways that do not involve reading or writing text”.

So, what is being done to encourage children to read?

  • The National Literacy Trust has launched a campaign to promote reading whereby children and adults must nominate their reading hero.
  • Children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, author of Noughts & Crosses, has recently announced a campaign to support Young Adult fiction in the UK with a YA Literature Convention which will happen in London, summer 2013 (article from The Bookseller).
  • Whilst I have a rather biased negative view regarding Amazon, I have to say that their recent advertisement for their Kindle device is fantastic in encouraging children to read (despite the fact that they are encouraging children to read in electronic form as opposed to print form – I definitely think that needs to be the opposite way around, but still, I guess it is a start??):
  • As I mentioned in a previous post about library closures affecting children’s literacy, organisations such as the Voices for the Library are trying to promote libraries and shows that, despite the closures, there are still many opportunities for libraries in the future.

It will be interesting to see the results which come from the next study generated from the National Literacy Trust so we can see whether there has been any change in statistics (hopefully, for the better!) Certainly, it would be fantastic to see if any of the points I mentioned above may help the cause and hopefully make children aware that reading is not embarrassing, but can be a great experience.


Library closures and their impact on children’s literacy.

What libraries do for us – and me is an article written by Malorie Blackman on The Guardian‘s ‘Comment is free’ page which took my interest last week.

Blackman emphasised the point that libraries are the “best literacy resource we have” and with many public libraries closing across the country, there is concern that it could have some impact on literacy rates in children. It is thought that approx. 105 libraries have closed or left their local authority control since April 2012.

Many local councils have announced library closures. Lincolnshire plans to close 32 of its 47 libraries and Sheffield are to keep 12 out of 28 libraries open. Blackman commented on culture minister Ed Vaizey’s quick decision to save Jane Austen’s ring leaving the UK, in August, and said how he should be showing the same concern to save our libraries. Like Austen’s ring, libraries are considered “national treasures”.

There have been numerous complaints that the closures are in breach of the 1964 Libraries Act, which specifies that “every authority must provide a comprehensive and efficient library service”. Although despite this the article states that the government are yet to become involved in investigating the complaints.

Blackman questions why these closures are happening in a time where the government has placed emphasis on children’s reading and has also announced plans to reform secondary education, in particular the changes to GCSEs. It is no doubt that libraries offer a fantastic service. Story-telling sessions for young children, homework clubs and knowledgeable staff make up a safe environment where children, and adults alike, can discover and explore.

While libraries make up a significant part of our cultural heritage and have a positive impact on communities across the country, I feel that libraries can only do so much. What I mean by this is children’s parents must also play a significant part in encouraging their children to read and visit the library. Unless a child’s parent takes them to a library on a regular basis, then the child will not encounter the benefits. These library closures also make me wonder whether booksellers will offer more services to make up for those lost through closures? Booksellers could hold story-telling afternoons for young children and themed art and craft days to get children involved in literature. It can also be suggested that bookshops could offer a scheme where parents could trade-in bought books for other secondhand books at a small fee, particularly for those families who may have a low income. Suggestions which hopefully won’t have to be considered.

Blackman’s article finishes with the statement: “Without them [libraries], literacy may increasingly become the province of the lucky few, rather than the birthright of everyone”. “The Institute of Education stated that children reading for pleasure between the ages of 10 and 16 can drastically improve vocabularly and attainment and is extremely important for a child’s cognitive development”. With this statistic, it can be seen that library closures will have a negative impact on literacy in children.

There are, however, sites such as the Voices for the Library which “advocates for public libraries and library staff”. The site presents some encouraging statistics and stated that although library visits were in essence, down, visits via libraries’ websites were in fact up, with more loans being issued via websites. According in CIPFA, book issues increased in 2009 from 307,571,240 to 310,776,757. In addition it is thought that during the period 2008-9, web visits to UK libraries were up 49%. So while, libraries are closing, library usage via websites are up emphasising the point that “these are times of opportunity, not decline”. Like bookshops, libraries can embrace change by enhancing the use of digital. A great example is the new library which opened in Birmingham recently (you can read my blog post on it, here). The new building is a successful mix of tradition and discovery reflected through the incorporated use of digital devices to enhance learning. Certainly, it is current news such as this which shows just how much opportunity there is for libraries in general.