In my latest assignment, I wrote about how access to books should be a basic right in early childhood and beyond. I found that, subsequently, there isn’t a basic human right to gain access to books, yet it underpins important aspects of early childhood.
As World Book Day is now here, I want to emphasise that children’s books are poignant resources, allowing children to thrive both academically and socially.
A survey conducted at the beginning of this academic year in the UK by Book Trust (2022), alluded that “one in five children do not have access to any books of their own.” This is known as ‘literacy poverty’ and factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic have diminished the right to access books even further.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, international lockdowns left 1.5 billion children unable to attend school, which according to World Economic Forum (2022) has widened the literacy gap. Almost a year without schooling, worsened the learning crisis, outlining how for 70% of children, grasping skills missed, would take seven years of reading to catch up (Unicef, 2022).
It is not just the lack of schooling that has diminished children’s access to books, the current cost of living crisis has impacted how families provide for their children. According to the UK Social Mobility Commission Report (2016), low-income and insecure jobs can put a strain on child development. Parents have reported that books are simply “too expensive” to buy for their children.
What can we do to help?
There has been unprecedented pressure on agencies and local communities to ensure that children are receiving the best provision for not only their education but their well-being too. Multi-agency working has resulted in initiatives that aim to complete the mission of helping as many children as possible.
Leading children’s publisher, Macmillan (2022) state that 170,000 children have received a free book as part of Book Club. In alliance with the children’s charity, Magic Breakfast (2021), which works with the most disadvantaged school children to provide them with a healthy breakfast; 50,000 books have been distributed.
Local councils also run events for children, such as story time which is vital for developing early literacy skills. This strategy within the local area is beneficial for children and families, especially those who struggle to afford resources.
I’ve also found storytime sessions to be effective in my primary school placement. The children adore listening to stories and completing fun, literacy activities afterward.
As a children’s author, I have acknowledged how access to books can transpire in greater outcomes in later life. Books can take you to places that you have never been before, where you are able to meet characters you have always dreamt about the meeting.
My own book, Cicerella: A modern fairy-tale is an innovative take on the traditional fairy-tale, Cinderella, which echoes a number of qualities that are endeavoured to inspire our younger generation. This coming-of-age story reveals how confidence is a battle and how it becomes Cecilia’s overall key to success.
It is through books that children begin to understand, discover, and feel a sense of belonging in the world. Books are definitely part of children’s success in later life; without books, early childhood would fail to prosper.