Reading Crisis Among Britain's Under-11s

Urgent mission launched by coalition of leading charities, teachers, parents and businesses

Monday, 8 September 2014 - 5:40am
Nicola  (36) reads to  Ava (1) at home in Sheffield. The family is involved in Save the Children’s FAST  (Families and Schools Together) programme which encourages parents to read to their children at home.
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One and a half million children will reach the age of 11 unable to ‘read well’ by 2025 unless urgent action is taken to tackle the reading crisis facing Britain’s pupils, according to new research.
The worrying situation has prompted leading charities, teachers, parents and businesses to form a coalition called ‘Read On. Get On.’ Today, they are launching a national mission to support parents and teachers to get all 11 year olds reading well by 2025, meaning they can read, understand and discuss stories, such as Harry Potter. The move has also been backed by publishers and their bestselling authors.
A report by the coalition shows that England is one of the most unequal countries when it comes to children’s reading levels, second only to Romania in the EU. The gap between the strongest and weakest readers is equivalent to seven years of schooling. The report calls for a concerted effort from all corners of society.
The most comprehensive study of pre-school and primary school-aged children in a generation found disadvantaged children are the worst affected, with four in ten not reading well by the age of 11 – almost double the rate of their better off peers. The report, which uses current data and that from the past decade, also found they are not reading enough outside school, or with their fathers. 
Research commissioned for this report, including by Newcastle University, CentreForum, National Foundation for Educational Research and the National Literacy Trust, also finds:
·      GDP in 2025 could be £32 billion higher if action had been taken to ensure all children were reading well by the age of 11
·      A wide ‘book gap’ in the UK has emerged, with almost a quarter of 11 year olds in the poorest families having fewer than ten books in their home
·      While books remain popular, the most commonly read material by children is now text messages with websites and e-books also growing in popularity
Dame Julia Cleverdon CBE, Chair of the Read On. Get On. coalition, said: “It is tragic and unfair that children from the poorest families and the most deprived communities are least likely to read well at the age of 11 in the UK - one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Four out of ten children on free school meals who struggle to read will also struggle to gain the educational opportunities and life chances that they need to flourish. This vital long term campaign with broad based energetic support aims to make a life-changing difference both for children in poverty and for our society.” 
Read On. Get On aims to create a nation of strong readers by:                
·      Supporting parents to read with young children for ten minutes a day
·      Urging the public to volunteer to help disadvantaged children improve their reading
·      Building a powerful coalition of the county’s most influential public, private and charitable organisations to pledge to support the mission
·      Urging all political parties to support the 2025 target and two interim 2020 goals
Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive of Save the Children which is part of the coalition, said: “Read On. Get On. is not just about teachers, charities and politicians – it’s about galvanising the nation so that parents, grandparents and volunteers play their part in teaching children to read. We want every child to be given a fair and equal chance to learn to read well, regardless of their background.”
Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) which is part of the coalition, said: “This new campaign has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of Britain’s youngest readers. Recent results for Key Stage 2 are impressive and show that 79% of 5-11 year olds are now reading well. This gives us a strong foundation but there’s also evidence that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are still struggling.
“School leaders are at the forefront of improving literacy standards and they’re passionate about helping children become better readers. Read On. Get On. will provide vital support. We can only tackle a challenge like this if everybody works together. This must be beyond politics, a commitment from professionals, parents and the public to achieve the best for our children."
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Notes to editors:
About the report:
‘Reading well’ by the age of 11 means that children should not only be able to read the words that are written down, but they should also have a wider understanding of the meaning behind stories and information and be able to talk about them and comment on them. As well as being able to read and understand books such as Harry Potter or Treasure Island, they should also be able to read a range of different materials, including magazines and newspapers, many websites, letters and dictionaries.

The report, Read On. Get On. – How Reading Can Help Children Escape Poverty, is based on new analysis of data by Newcastle University (using data from the Millennium Cohort Study), Centre Forum (using data from 2013), the National Literacy Trust (using data from 2005-2013) and the National Foundation for Educational Research (using data from 2011).

About the coalition:
Read On. Get On. is a reading campaign driven by a coalition of organisations, communities, parents and schools, businesspeople, media and politicians: