In his rousing acceptance speech for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2011, Patrick Ness pointed out the breathtaking hypocrisy of a government whose Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey, can talk at the inauguration ceremony for the new Children’s Laureate of his passion for libraries and concern at their closures even as libraries around the country are being closed and ‘where they’re not being closed, their hours are being shortened, their staffs reduced, their services limited…Libraries are not facing crisis, they are in crisis.’ Ness continued: ‘If Ed Vaizey is passionate about libraries and his government is working behind the scenes to save them then that must be the best kept secret in the country.’
Ness also pointed out that our Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, while stating that children should be reading 50 books a year and bewailing the fact that three out of every 10 children don’t own a book ‘yet fails utterly to see the irony of how closing libraries will affect not only the three who don’t, but the seven who do and who would like to read more and more and more’.
Meanwhile, yet more research evidence for the importance of storytelling, of early intervention to help children who struggle with reading and of the benefits of reading for pleasure has recently been published.
The Institute for Social and Economic Research researched the impact of sharing stories with pre-school children and found that daily storytime sessions significantly improve children’s cognitive skills and reduce socio-emotional difficulties by the age of five. Researcher Yvonne Kelly found that ‘the strongest projector of childhood development was reading to children on a daily basis’.
Research undertaken by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) in collaboration with the National Centre for Social Research assessed the impact of the Every Child a Reader programme and found that it ‘significantly improved’ reading and writing skills. The programme targeted low-attaining six and seven-year-olds, providing compulsory one-to-one tuition to boost literacy among struggling pupils. (Michael Gove removed the ringfencing around Every Child a Reader funding last year provoking fears that such tuition will now be a ‘lottery’.)
Ofsted’s latest report Excellence in English found that schools need to encourage reading for fun to achieve high standards in English. It states: ‘Schools that take the business of reading for pleasure seriously, where teachers read, talk with enthusiasm and recommend books, and where provision for reading is planned carefully, are more likely to succeed with their pupils’ reading.’
And in this issue of BfK, Mark Taylor of Nuffield College, Oxford, explains his innovative research on the link between reading books and better career prospects. He found that the 16-year-olds who read books at least once a month were significantly more likely to be in a managerial or professional job at 33 than those who did not read books at all.
But where, as Patrick Ness also pointed out in his Carnegie Medal acceptance speech, will children (and their parents) obtain the books that they need when libraries and library services are being decimated. As he says, ‘Here is a government that shouts so loudly that it wants young people to read, while at the same time cutting the very things that have proven, time and time again, to do just that.’
The CILIP Carnegie Shadowing Scheme
‘Good Reads’ in this issue of BfK are from the Carnegie Shadowing Group at Fortismere School, one of the hundreds of Carnegie Shadowing Groups round the country – evidence in themselves of young readers’ enthusiasm for and pleasure in reading.