J.K. Rowling Backs New Reading Campaign
J.K. Rowling has given her support to a new campaign designed to promote higher reading standards for children. A recent study sparked fear that 1.5 million children in Britain will reach the age of 11 unable to “read well” by 2025. The Read On. Get On campaign is led by the charity organizations Save the Children, the CBI, and Teach First.
One aim of the campaign is to get the main British political parties to include in their 2015 manifestos a commitment to improving the reading of the most disadvantaged children. The campaign, chaired by Dame Julia Cleverdon, defines “reading well” as being able to read, understand, and discuss books such as Harry Potter and Treasure Island.
Cleverdon said the following:
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 10 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.
Other research for the campaign shows that while just three years earlier, in 2010, children were most likely to be reading books if they were reading outside of school hours, by 2013, books remain popular, but the most commonly read material was text messages. The study also revealed that one in six adults in Britain now has a literacy level below that expected of an 11-year-old. In 2013, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that England’s 16–24-year-olds have literacy levels no better than their grandparents’ generation.
Read On. Get On aims to create a nation of strong readers by supporting parents to read with their children for ten minutes a day and urging the public to volunteer to help disadvantaged children improve their reading.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), had this to say:
This new campaign has the potential to make a real difference [in] 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.
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