Celebrating World Book Day
Posted by Lizzie Poulton
1 March is World Book Day and children across the UK, will be taking part in special events in schools, libraries and bookshops. There will be dressing up, storytelling and all kinds of other fun events to celebrate the fun and wonder of books.
As with all the best celebrations there are gifts too. Every child taking part will receive a £1 book token that they can spend on any book, or exchange for one of the six new titles by popular authors that are published especially for the event every year.
We all know the high cost of low literacy skills, both for individuals and for the UK economy. We also know that the cuts are presenting enormous challenges to many of the libraries and other agencies that aim to engage children and families from less advantaged backgrounds with reading.
There is still much to celebrate, however. World Book Day is a great opportunity to recognise the fantastic teachers, outreach staff and family liaison workers who share their love of reading with children and families in their community every day.
The National Literacy Trust’s Young Readers Programme is incredibly proud of our hundreds of enthusiastic project coordinators, many of whom will be running exciting events this World Book Day in venues ranging from shopping centres in Rotherham to children’s centres in Lambeth. We are also delighted by the commitment shown by some of the young people we work with to inspiring the next generation of readers. At one of our projects in the City of London Academy, a group of teenagers have set up a reading club for the younger children in the school, and their insight and enthusiasm has been invaluable in helping us to develop a new model of working. With so many negative stereotypes focused on young people and public sector workers it’s important to celebrate what we see on a regular basis.
Families, too, are giving their children the best start in life by supporting their children’s literacy. Recent figures show that an increasing number of under-fives are being taken to activities and events in their local library, and older children are continuing to use and appreciate the library – children’s book borrowing is on an upward trend, having risen for the last seven consecutive years, and an incredible 76.4% of children aged 5 to 10 make regular library visits. This is a testament to the dedication and vision of our children’s and young people’s librarians, working hard to address the needs of their communities in a very challenging climate.
There is also something to be celebrated in the field of adult literacy. Although the Skills for Life survey of 2011 showed that the number of UK adults with literacy skills no higher than those expected of an 11 year-old has remained static (at a shocking one in six), the number of people gaining a level two has increased by 13%. In practical terms this means that 4.4 million more people in the UK now have the skills to complete an open-ended form requiring detailed information (like a job application), an achievement that has the potential to greatly improve their life chances.
There is always more to be done and always room for improvement. But I feel very privileged to be working in a sector with so many committed and enthusiastic people making a real difference to people’s lives. Books and reading are to be celebrated. I hope you will enjoy your World Book Day or even World Book Night events if you are participating in any. And if not you can always celebrate by yourself - by curling up with a good book.
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