Read it and weep: we're closing the book on our kids' future
We say we know how vital it is to read to our children, but life just gets in the way
Juggling parental responsibilities with the demands of work life could be robbing parents of time to read to and bond with their children.
A recent survey of 1,000 parents by the National Literacy Trust in the UK found that only three in 10 read stories to their children every day.
And an SA literacy expert believes the situation here could be worse.
Six in 10 parents agreed that reading to their children helped them learn to read. But they admitted that work schedules and juggling the needs of a number of children were proving a challenge for them.
According to the survey only 15% have their child read aloud to every day, despite 97% seeing the importance of reading and 58% acknowledging that reading provided a chance to bond.
In addition, it found that one in eight disadvantaged children in the UK don’t own a single book, with more than one in 10 parents saying they want more access to free books.
Athol Williams, poet, academic and co-founder of Read to Rise, a non-profit organisation that promotes youth literacy at disadvantaged SA schools, said while similar data was not available, he believes “our numbers would be worse”.
Williams said children in the foundation phase should be reading about 40 books a year.
“In our underresourced communities children are reading only one to two books per year. We know that most homes in poorer neighbourhoods have no books that are appropriate for children.”
According to Williams very few parents read themselves, let alone read to their children.
“There are countless cases of children who arrive at primary school without even the basics of literacy ability, and in some cases these children are found in high schools as well.
“I learned recently of a Grade 9 child who couldn’t read or write. How did he get through the school system?”
Read to Rise is trying to address the reading crisis in SA by visiting 65 schools where they promote reading to pupils between grades 2 and 4, mainly by reading to them and distributing a new storybook to each child to take home.
Williams said book ownership was an important step towards cultivating children’s love for reading.
“Children who own books and come from homes where books are available perform much better at school. Our programme introduces books into many homes for the first time, giving parents the opportunity to read with their children and giving children the chance to share the magic of reading with siblings and friends,” said Williams.