International Literacy Day falls on September 8, so this is a good time to consider the importance of being able to read and write properly.
According to Unesco, about 774 million adults around the world lack minimum literacy skills. One in five adults are still not literate. About 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly, or drop out.
And I was shocked to discover that there is a direct correlation between illiteracy and crime. Half the UK prison population has a reading age of below 11-years-old.
The US Department of Justice has said that failure to read ‘meets all the requirements for bringing about – and maintaining – the frustration level that leads to delinquency,’ and this in turn causes ‘aggressive Anti-Social Behaviour’ (ASB). Unesco’s banners for International Literacy Day feature the words “Literacy is the best remedy.” In the aftermath of the UK riots, this is a good time to do something positive to prevent trouble in the future.
We need to begin early. I can’t emphasise enough, the importance of reading to small children – even to babies. Grandparents, relatives, or carers, can help busy parents, so there really shouldn’t be an excuse for any child not to have the wonderful experience of being read to. This stimulates an interest in books, and makes children want to read themselves.
Literacy standards in this country are not as good as they should be: one in six struggles with literacy. This summer, London Mayor, Boris Johnson, launched a National Literacy Trust volunteering project to help raise literacy standards in our capital city.
At its launch, Education Secretary, Michael Gove, said: “At its most basic, literacy is the key which opens the door to every opportunity life might bring.
“Unless children have learned to read, they cannot read to learn. And unless children have learned to read properly, they cannot go on to further education, hold down a proper job, play their part as citizens, or fulfil their potential.”