Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are

I’ve often read that quote, but never felt it would hit as close to home as it does right now.

I’ve often read that quote, but never felt it would hit as close to home as it does right now.

World Book Day will be very different for many children, families, and schools this year. I’m sure fewer faces appeared around the living room door at 8.00pm last night with an “I need a costume for… “ remark and, sadly, classrooms won’t be full of wonderful creations depicting our favourite characters.

But we will stay hopeful and positive and think about how nice it will be over the coming months as things are relaxed and we can see our friends and loved ones again. With schools reopening to normal classes from next week, many people feel the light at the end of the tunnel is within reach.

For me, life revolves around reading. Whether that’s reading to the new baby in the family, or working with business, schools and volunteers as part of my day job as Time to Read Programme Manager.

Our Time to Read programme has been a great way of encouraging children to develop a love of books by exploring faraway lands and interesting characters. This programme would not be possible without the support from the Department of Education and our many volunteers, who read with Key Stage 2 pupils for an hour a week during term time. The programme is normally based in local primary schools, but due to the current circumstances’ delivery has been transitioned online until it is deemed safe to return to the school setting. Even when volunteers can return, we hope to deliver a hybrid model that will enable us to support more schools and pupils.

While reading is a great way to help expand children’s imaginations, it also helps to encourage the development of other skills. A child’s ability to read well is a foundational building block of their education. Reading well enables children to write well as they develop a more varied vocabulary. It also helps them to build resilience and develop coping skills as they relate to the experiences of the much-loved characters in their stories. Good literacy skills can also give children more opportunities as their breadth of reading helps them develop confidence, self-esteem, and a general openness to trying new things.

On the international stage, Northern Ireland learners perform quite well academically when compared to their peers, however educational underachievement still impacts too many children. – Stranmillis College

Children who read well do better at school, grow up to do better in the workplace and are better placed to give their own children the best start in life when the time comes. – Reading Northern Ireland’s Future.

People with low literacy skills may not be able to read a book or newspaper, understand road signs or price labels, make sense of a bus or train timetable, fill out a form, read instructions on medicines or use the internet, which can have an ongoing impact on their sense of mental health and wellbeing.

From a business standpoint, low levels of literacy undermine the UK’s economic competitiveness, costing the taxpayer £2.5 billion every year (KPMG, 2009). A third of businesses are not satisfied with young people’s literacy skills when they enter the workforce and a similar number have organised remedial training for young recruits to improve their basic skills, including literacy and communication.

In normal times, we would have a lot of member companies getting involved in our World Book Week Book Drive to help us replenish reading material in our Time to Read schools. These new and pre-loved books get a new lease of life in their new homes and are thoroughly enjoyed by volunteers and children alike.

This year we need to be a bit more creative. We are encouraging interested parties to get involved by supporting our Book Drive virtually. Why not purchase some lovely new books and have them delivered to a local primary school. Popular authors for our target age range include David Walliams, Roald Dahl, Jeff Kinney, Judy Blume, H. A. Rey, Dan Freedman, Michael Rosen, Jacqueline Wilson, or Michael Morpurgo.

If you would like more information on our Book Drive, the Time to Read programme or any of our other education programmes please contact