At The Big Issue we’re committed to improving literacy. It matters, hugely.
In February we launched #whybooksmatter – our campaign for better literacy in Britain. We believe early work can improve the life chances of those who need it most, and when researcher Professor Yvonne Kelly got in touch after seeing our campaign launch with some brand-new research we saw the incredible benefits of reading for your child.
Did you know, for example, that reading to all children daily could result in a 20 per cent fall in the numbers of youngsters with behavioural problems? Or that between the ages of three and five, children who are read to daily do better in all tests that predict how well they will get on at school?
It’s not just children who are struggling. Across the UK there are low levels of literacy among adults. Almost 27 per cent of Scotland’s adult population face challenges due to lack of literacy; five million English adults have below functional literacy; 12 per cent of Welsh adults lack basic literacy skills. But it’s never too late to take the leap toward a better future.
Unfortunately though, libraries are under threat. Last year, £25m less was spent on libraries in Britain, a 2.6 per cent fall from the £919m the year before, a reflection of cuts by local authorities looking to free up cash for frontline services. The knock-on effects are disastrous – for reading groups, for those who can’t afford to buy new books, for those who need to use library computers to get online when they don’t have access at home, for the marginalised for whom libraries are a welcome sanctuary.