Published on September 19th, 2022
Almost one in five (18.6%)children in England between the ages of five and eight do not have access to books at home, new research has revealed.
According to a report by the National Literacy Trust, the percentage of children in this age group who do not have a book of their own at home has risen by 1.9% since before the pandemic and is now at its highest point since 2019.
The rising cost of living is cited as a key reason for this increase, with 87% of parents saying they now have less disposable income and 64% saying that the amount of money they have to spend on books for their child has decreased. Just over half (51%) say that books are simply too expensive.
The report suggests that access to books at home is another consequence of the squeeze on family finances – and one that has concerning repercussions for children’s futures, according to Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust.
Owning books is integral to encouraging children to get into regular reading habits and for increasing literacy levels, said Douglas, who urged that “getting books to children is more important than ever”.
“Low literacy levels can hold you back at school, lock you out of the job market, affect your physical and mental health, and even your life expectancy,” he added.
The report outlines findings from the National Literacy Trust’s annual literacy survey, which explores young children’s reading engagement and access to reading materials. Only half the children surveyed said that they read daily, with one in 13 saying they never read at all.
According to the report, a third of parents say reading plays a central role in their child’s daily routine, while 31% say their child reads less outside of the school term – posing significant questions about how the country can increase the number of children reading regularly.
Children who own a book of their own at home are six times more likely to read above the level expected for their age, the report said.
The new report is published in partnership with McDonald’s, which has donated more than half a million books to children in deprived areas across the country this month, with the aim of ensuring as many children can start the new school year with a book of their own. The donations included The BFG by Roald Dahl, Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison and the Little People Big Dreams series by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Lisbeth Kaiser.
Television presenter Vernon Kay has partnered with the fast-food chain to raise awareness of the importance of children’s literacy. He said it’s “heartbreaking” that so many children in the UK are without books.
Kay, who has two daughters with his wife, fellow presenter Tess Daly, said his own children “are lucky to have had lots of books to inspire and engage them as they’ve grown up, but for many children across the UK that’s sadly not the case”.
We're here to help you with anything we can. Let us know through the form below and we'll contact you back.