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Read on and get on

October 8th 2014

Reading 600

When my youngest daughter started school back in 1992, a little boy from her class, recognising me in the playground approached me and said incredulously, ‘Ellen can read’!.  He then added a question I shall never forget, ‘Is it magic?’

I had enjoyed books as a child and couldn’t wait to share that joy with my daughters. We started with picture books, moving on to stories and then I made up stories in which they were the main characters. Now in their twenties, the three of us read the same books and to all intents and purposes are our own book group, discussing plots and characters, likes and dislikes and making recommendations. I cannot think of a better gift to give to any child than the ability to read and enjoy stories. Reading is a gift and indeed a right; it opens up a world of possibilities, just like a book. Children first learn to read; then they read to learn. Little Simon was right, it is indeed magical.

Reading is the key to unlocking every child’s full potential.

As children themselves have told us, it can lead to better qualifications and career prospects. Ten year old Ashton from Gilfach Goch loves reading with his Mam, Leanne Jones, and knows that “Reading is good because it will help me when I’m older.”  Megan*, aged nine, from Bridgend echoed this sentiment: “I love reading because if you can’t read you won’t get anywhere in life.”

Yet, not every child has that opportunity.

All too often, statistics show that being born into poverty limits children’s life chances. Across the UK, despite persistent efforts over many years from governments, schools and civil society, disadvantaged children continue to have significantly less chances of doing well at school than their better-off classmates.

Here in Wales a 2010-11 Estyn report stated that “every year, four in ten (40%) of 11 year olds in Wales have reading ages below their chronological age.” Also the recently published Welsh Government National Literacy results show that children living in disadvantaged areas did less well with their reading than those living in more affluent areas. We know that there are a myriad of reasons why this is so.

Reading well is essential to tackling the effects of poverty on children, and on the economy as a whole. A report by the UK coalition Read On. Get On. called Reading For a Fairer Future, found that if the UK had, in recent decades, taken action to ensure that all children, regardless of their background were reading well by the age of 11, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) this year could have been around £13.8 billion higher. In 2025 that could be £32 billion.

So why 2025?

By coming together as a coalition, our members in Wales, which include Booktrust Cymru, NAHT Cymru, Literature Wales, Welsh Libraries, CSV-RSVP and Achievement For All are setting a historic goal that every single child born this year will be able to read well by the time they finish primary school in 11 years time.

Everyone can do something 

Just ten minutes a day reading with a child makes a huge difference. But it will take all of us, parents, grandparents, businesses, volunteers, teachers and role models to make this happen. Great work is being carried out in schools, but it cannot all be left to teachers. Research shows that what happens beyond the school gates and at home is also critical. Interestingly children whose fathers read with them daily at the age of five will be almost a year ahead in their reading a few years later, than a child read to less than once a week by their father.

Ten minutes a day is all it could take, echoing the message sent out loudly and clearly by the Welsh Government’s ‘Make Time To Read’ launched in 2010 which promotes the huge  difference that can be achieved by parents reading for just 10 minutes per day for their child, as part of their ‘Education Begins at Home’ campaign.

We hope that all of us working together in partnership, will lead to better results for our children in Wales. Our task is to enlist all those who can help to achieve a most ambitious but vital goal in supporting all parents to read with their children every day, urging the public to volunteer to help, building a powerful coalition to pledge to support the mission and urging all political parties to support the 2025 target.

This is our opportunity to write the next chapter for the children of Wales. Let’s get it right.

Mary Powell Chandler is Director of Save the Children Wales.  

We are extremely grateful to all the Welsh children’s authors who have penned exclusive ten-minute reads – available in English at www.readongeton.org.uk and Welsh at www.y-cymro.com.   For further information on Read On.Get On. visit www.readongeton.org or savethechildren.org.uk/reading  

*name changed due to consent

 

 

 

 

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