5 March 2020

By Ginny Lunn, Managing Director at Coram Beanstalk 

Earlier this week The Observer revealed that children today read less frequently than any previous generation and enjoy reading less than young people did in the past. We share deep concern over this decline in numbers of children reading for pleasure. 

Our work supporting children who have fallen behind shows us daily how one-to-one reading support changes children’s lives. Confidence and self-esteem is developed through fun, book-based activities, raising both current attainment and future aspirations.

To turn the current trend around, our experience providing schools with reading volunteers demonstrates that early intervention makes a huge difference when it comes to getting children to love reading. The Key Stage One children we support catch up to their expected reading level far quicker than those we work in KS2. It is not that KS2 children do not make progress – but it is tougher for them to fully narrow the gap with their peers.

Support in early years is therefore critical. In my view the emphasis has to be on reading for pleasure and bringing the fun and magic back into reading. This can be challenging in the digital age, but it can be done - 97% of primary schools our volunteers work with say they have seen their children get more out of their reading as a result. 

Earlier this week we also saw the story emerge about Callum, the schoolboy bullied for his love of books. The book community came out in full force to give their support, turning this story into an incredibly positive one, but it sadly highlights the challenges we face to change attitudes towards reading for pleasure. Author Matt Haig came out to say how he remembered "being 13 and hiding my love of books from some of the lads at school who mocked you for it".

There is clearly still so much work to do to 'open the door' to reading for children who have become disengaged with reading or who find books boring and hard to access in enjoyable ways.

Our reading helpers play a vital role in building confidence and self-esteem through fun, book-based activities, raising both reading attainment and future aspirations. We remain committed to ensuring all children have the opportunity to access brilliant books and to enjoy reading.

We are always looking for more volunteers to help us expand our reach and impact. If you think you could help pass on a love of reading with children in your local area, please consider becoming a reading helper.

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