Will the Olympic Games inspire a nation of readers?
Posted by Jonathan Douglas
Why do girls read more than boys? And how can we close the gap between the literacy levels of boys and girls? At the beginning of July the National Literacy Trust published the report of the All Party Parliamentary Literacy Group’s Commission examining these issues.
At the heart of the report is a consideration of how gender identity can make reading, literacy and learning uncool and irrelevant for some boys and girls. The report challenges us to think about how gender identities can be constructed that will allow children and young people to see being literate as central to their aspirations.
The way in which children and young people observe and internalise the behaviours of those around them is central to this challenge. As one research report put it:
Role models are key references for adolescents because they provide a window to the future
The National Literacy Trust has a great track record of using celebrity, community and peer role models to promote reading. So far, this year, over 1,000 schools have used our Premier League Reading Stars project to promote literacy to children.
This summer’s Olympic Games is creating a new cohort of role models. Inspiration of a new generation is the theme of the 2012 Games. And, fantastically, inspiration to read is a key message coming from the celebrations.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that with the genius of Frank Cottrell Boyce behind it, the opening ceremony featured a fabulous children’s literature mash-up. It was wonderful to see stories for children at the heart of the celebration of our nation. And it’s fantastic that projects like the Summer Reading Challenge are part of the cultural Olympic festival.
Our challenge is to sustain this energy and use it to inspire young peoples’ reading and writing. A re-energised popular culture with new role models who are advocates for literacy is a powerful tool to turn the negative stereotypes around reading and writing on their heads.
 National Literacy Trust (2012)
 Bryant and Zimmerman (2003) Role models and psychosocial outcomes among African American Adolescents Journal of Adolescent Research 18
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