Reading for pleasure
Although we didn’t intend it, this issue has something of a focus on reading for pleasure. Our Authorgraph interview is with Derek Landy, whose cleverly balanced mixture of fear and fun have made the Skulduggery Pleasant books hugely popular, and especially with reluctant readers. We also have a piece from Neill Cameron, who argues for comics’ unique power to connect with young readers and to spark their imaginations. Both features feel particularly timely as this month the National Literacy Trust published their latest research into children’s reading trends, which, alarmingly, reveals that over half (56%) of children and young people aged 8 – 18 don’t enjoy reading in their free time. This is an all-time low statistic since NLT began surveying children in 2005 and is down 15.2 percentage points from its height in 2016.
Levels of reading enjoyment were found to be weakest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, with over 60% of children on Free School Meals saying they don’t enjoy reading in their free time. The report references recent exam data [2022 KS2 attainment data, gov.uk] which shows that over a third of children on Free School Meals are leaving primary school without reaching the expected level of reading, and with poverty rates rising this number is in danger of increasing. A widening attainment gap means that even more children could fall behind their more affluent peers in their education and literacy skills, which can go on to have a lifetime impact.
This makes current initiatives such as Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho’s campaign in support of public libraries, and his predecessor Cressida Cowell’s campaign for libraries in primary schools even more necessary, but it’s on all of us to address the downward trends in reading enjoyment and frequency. As the NLT says, declining reading enjoyment across a growing number of children and young people must act as a wake-up call for all who support children and young people’s reading for pleasure.
A new spotlight on inclusive books
Finding the right book for the right child is crucial in promoting reading for pleasure, together with access to books that reflect their experiences. This month saw the launch of a new website Inclusive Books for Children, and related award intended to help parents and other adults searching for ‘high-quality, inclusive books’. Founders Sarah and Marcus Satha came up with the idea for IBC in 2022 after experiencing difficulties sourcing inclusive books for their two mixed-heritage children. Visitors to the site can browse through more than 700 book recommendations and search the database to find books featuring protagonists with specific characteristics. There’s a short review for each book and the review team includes Jake Hope, Jen Campbell and Tanja Jennings. Fabia Turner is head of content. Books for Keeps is pleased to see a new organisation working for change in this space alongside stalwarts CLPE, Letterbox Library and BookTrust.
IBC also announced a new set of awards, which will recognise the best new inclusive books published in the UK across three categories: books for babies and toddlers aged 1–3, picture books for ages 3–7 and children’s fiction for ages 5–9. A judging panel will award £10,000 to the winning book in each category.
The Friends Calendar
The 2024 Friends Calendar is on sale now! This year’s calendar features a fantastic collection of award-winning illustrators, comprising Posy Simmonds, Ruth Brown, Mary McQuillan, Debi Gliori, Jane Hissey and Jane Ray, Tony Ross, Arthur Robins, Michael Foreman, Ian Beck, Colin Hawkins and Colin McNaughton, with a special tribute to the wonderful David McKee.
The Calendars are A4 spiral bound, opening up to A3 wall size, and cost £10.50 each which includes P&P. All profits from the sale of the calendars goes to BookTrust. For further information, contact Anne Marley at: email@example.com