The Department for Education's report Reading: the next steps has been published today. It sets out the scale of the problem which still faces us in the UK where 1 in 4 children in the UK cannot read well by the time they leave primary school and recognises that if we are going to tackle this problem, we need to involve children in a wide range of reading activities outside of school as well as within it. We are very pleased to see library membership recognised as a key intervention and welcome the recommendation that all 7-8 year olds should have a library card. We are also glad to see the Department for Education outline the benefits which can come from children getting involved in reading groups; it would be great to see all key stage 2 pupils having the opportunity to join one.
Over 10,000 children across the UK take part in our Chatterbooks reading groups, which we run in schools and in public libraries, so we are pleased that the report recognises the role activities like these can play in 'improving both reading and spoken language skills'. Chatterbooks does this by making reading fun; something children want to do all year round and an activity to share with friends. There is a different theme every month, with lots of activities and competitions designed to inspire children to read more and encourage them to share their thoughts about the books they read. Schools and libraries can tailor their groups to meet the needs of the children taking part and we work with publisher Barrington Stoke and charity Dyslexia Action to create special sets of Chatterbooks activities for children with dyslexia or reading difficulties. We want to extend the reach of the programme; we would like to see every child in the UK having the opportunity to be involved.
Reading inside and outside school
Reading: the next steps reinforces the need for programmes like Chatterbooks and those run by our partners in the Read On. Get On. coalition. It shows the benefits which can come from taking a more integrated approach to learning and joining up the activity which takes place both inside and outside school.
We also see the benefits which can come from children having role models who can inspire them to read more. Children need to see all the other people in their lives reading; it is why we are putting a much greater emphasis on volunteering in all our reading programmes. The Summer Reading Challenge had a hugely successful year in 2014 with a record 839,622 children taking part. It has been very interesting to see the impact of having young people volunteering to help deliver the Challenge. Over 8,000 young people volunteered last year, providing powerful role models for younger children as well as gaining experience themselves: 85% said they had developed new skills as a result. As a result, this year we are piloting getting young people involved in year-round support for reading, including volunteering to support Chatterbooks groups in libraries and schools.
Both the Summer Reading Challenge and Chatterbooks are evidence of what can be achieved through shared, national programmes which can be tailored by local libraries to meet the needs of their community: 81,908 children joined the library to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge last year. We hope that, building on the findings of last year's independent library report, the government continues to recognise the wide ranging contribution libraries make to society and ensures they play an essential part in any strategy to encourage children to read for pleasure.
Sue Wilkinson, CEO, The Reading Agency
Read the full report from the Department for Education
Find out more about our programmes for children