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Reading, the lost habit in our ever growing world of gadgets and technology.
- 1 in 4 children in London leaves primary school at 11 unable to read or write properly
- 1 in 5 leaves secondary school without being able to read or write with confidence.
- 1 in 6 working adults in the capital cannot read with confidene. Nationally 5% of adults in England have literacy skills either at below the level of a 7 year old.
- 16% is the estimated proportion of 16 to 65 year olds with the reading age of an 11 year old. Of these about 5% are believed to have skills at the same level or below that of a 7 year old.
- 40% of 11 year old inner city primary schools have a reading age of between six and nine when they start secondary school.
- 1 in 5 pupils at inner London schools has special educational needs such as dyslexia
- 40% of London employees have poor literacy skills and report that it has a negative impact on their business.
Source: Evening Standard
Why reading has taken a backseat.
I will never forget the title of one of the books that formed part of our home library when I was one of four sisters living with my parents. It simply read reading is fun. Reading formed part of our daily routine growing up. Our parents encouraged us to read and we acquired a love for reading as a result. Reading became a competitive habit in my household. It was about who could read the most books, find the most new words and remember the story in detail subsequently. It was a healthy and enjoyable practice, one which would see us gaining top marks in our English grammar and English Literature courses in later years.
I think its safe to say that is not the case anymore because we live in an era where technology with its attendant mind blowing gadgets have dominated the intellect. Children these days talk about the latest games consoles which are flooding the market and which ones they will get for their next birthday or christmas. Very exhausting I think and certainly a drain on the pockets of the poor parents who succumb to the evergrowing needs of these gadget starving children. As we all know these gadgets don't come cheap. What happened to buying books for children and encouraging them to read? What happened to encouraging sights of children flicking through endless pages of brightly coloured pages with fun pictures to look at and interesting stories to tickle the high imagination of their developing minds? What happened to parents encouraging their children to immerse themselves in the wonderful world of literacy? One answer comes to mind. Reading has become a lost habit, struggling to compete with the constantly evolving nature of the amazing and fascinating world of technology.
One of my friends has a four year old boy, and being the old fashioned parent that I am I was surprised to see him playing feverishly on a Nintendo DS game. He was really immersed the game - mario kart I think it was called, to the extent that when his mum called out to him, he didn't hear a word of what she said. When I asked why her young son had a Nintendo DS, she said it keeps him busy and gives her the chance to focus on other things.
I would be a complete liar to say I have never been fascinated by these games consoles myself. I admit I have always toyed with the idea of buying a Wii, Play Station or what are the others called ? Hold on, just checking with my kids, and they are ticking them off (shocked, because they don't own any of these gadgets) -PSP, Nintendo DSI, Nintendo DS lite, PSP1, PSP2, PSP3, XBOX connect, XBOX live, Nintendo 3DS...phew, I thought they'd never finish, but apparently there are other types? Wow. Reasons why I decided not to purchase any of these game consoles was that firstly I found them ludicrously expensive. Secondly, I asked myself why they needed them because there were other means of entertaining themselves apart from getting hooked on these games. Having the world's cheapest babysitter (TV) was enough, plus they had the desktop PC to play games on when they were permitted to do so, hence in my books they were more than in touch with the ever growing techi world.
Eventually I bought a Nintendo DS for my oldest on his 9th birthday. This was three years ago. My husband wasn't pleased at all. He has never being an advocate for game consoles. Suffice to say he never will. I decided to try the theory of addiction to these gadgets on my son. The games console came as a deal with two games - Thriville and Spyro. What ensued left me nothing short of convinced that these games can be and are addictive. From the time my son woke up one morning during the school holidays to the time he wound up for the evening, he spent 90% of his waking moment playing on this games console. He didn't want to do anything else. Getting him to eat was a chore. He seemed to find the ultimate satisfaction, simply by being immersed in this wonderful world of Nintendo. Most of my friends have kids with games consoles and they always justify their purchase with the fact that children can be monitored in the use of these games. I guess they have a point, but to what extent can you get their minds off the knowledge that these games exist for them to pounce on whenever they see the greenlight?
The trend of possessing the latest gadgets seems to have gripped the daily commuters on the train as well. About 9 years ago when I used to travel to work by train, I constantly saw people with their noses buried either in newspapers, books or magazines. I must admit, it always impressed me to see so many people have such an interest in reading. I quickly learnt to adopt the habit of 'mobile' reading as well, by either grabbing a copy of the free daily newspapers from the stands before jumping onto the train, or I always had a story book in my bag to read on my way to and from work.
Well that was then. What I witnessed yesterday on the train was very different from 9years ago. I don't use the train much if ever these days, because I work locally now hence can afford to drive to work. Yesterday was one of the rare times that I found myself on the train. I didn't have anything to read, hence decided to sweep my eyes round the coach. Within seconds it dawned on me that almost everyone who was within my line of sight was fidgeting with some kind of gadget or the other. My guess was either they were playing games, checking emails, browsing the net or social networking. Suffice to say I found it incredulously surprising.
How ironic was it then, that I happened to pick up a copy of the free London Evening Standard shortly after that with the cover story title being - City of children who can't read.
The sad reality
- 1 in 3 children says he or she does not own a book
- 85% of children aged 8 to 15 own a games console
- 81% of them own a mobile phone
Source: Evening Standard
If you think about it the language of texting on mobile phones is not doing our children any favours. The abbreviated words and jargons are destroying their ability to spell correctly. I always insist that when my son sends me a text he uses the full words and not the short forms as he is still learning how to read and write properly.
The frightening reality of it all
I simpy have to share with you the gist of what I read in the newspaper yesterday. It defies belief and I honestly would have had a hard time believing it if I had learnt this by word of mouth.
According to the a research carried out by this newspaper, one in four children is practically illiterate when they leave primary school.
It is no news that London is swamped with amazing bookshops, libraries, publishers and writers, however the newspaper goes on to state that even though London is a world centre for the written word, one in three children grows up without a single book of their own.
One in four pupils aged 11 cannot read or write properly. One in five school leavers is unable to read confidently.
My initial reaction was shock. I couldn't believe it. However by the time I had read through these facts, I wondered how this could be possible. The feature goes on to report on how a nine year old brought the Argos Catalogue to school explaining that it was the only book that she had at home following a request by the class teacher for all children in the class to bring in story books. At this point I was in total disbelief. The Argos Catalogue advertises a large variation of products, from domestic appliances, to beauty products, toys and games, electric appliance...the list is endless.
In my children's school reading is a habit which is encouraged without fail. Children are taught to spend 20 minutes daily reading a book of their choice and recording details of it in what they refer to as a reading record book. I always believe that a child can never have too many books, and that goes for adults too. As the child grows and becomes more eloquent and advanced in their way of thinking and anaylsing, the books they are encouraged to choose and use should grow with their intellect.
Reading is a habit which should be encouraged and adopted at an early stage, and even though the situation looks bleak at the moment, all is not lost. We need to nurture this all important habit in our children. Reading is the foundation for learning. It affects everything. Research shows that if you cannot read, your ability to analyse and tackle scientific and mathematical problems is limited because of a lack of an ability to grasp the problem.
Charity begins at home, hence the duty of care lies first with us parents and the adults that these future leaders are living and growing up with. We have to encourage our children to develop a love for reading. Let's remember reading is not a chore, reading is and can be fun.