Read On. Get On. Help every UK child read well by 11

One and a half million children will reach the age of 11 unable to ‘read well’ by 2025 unless urgent action is taken to tackle the reading crisis facing pupils across the UK, according to new research.

The worrying situation has prompted leading charities, teachers, parents and businesses to form a coalition called ‘Read On. Get On.’ They are launching a national mission to support parents and teachers to get all 11 year olds reading well by 2025, meaning they can read, understand and discuss stories, such as Harry Potter. The move has also been backed by publishers and their bestselling authors.

A report by the coalition shows Northern Ireland is one of the most unequal places in Europe when it comes to children’s reading levels. The gap between the strongest and weakest readers is equivalent to six years of schooling. The report calls for a concerted effort from all corners of society.

More than one in six pupils in Northern Ireland does not achieve the expected standard in literacy when leaving primary school, according to the NI Audit office.

The most comprehensive study of pre-school and primary school-aged children in a generation found disadvantaged children are the worst affected, with four in ten children across the UK not reading well by the age of 11 – almost double the rate of their better off peers. The report, which uses current data and that from the past decade, also found they are not reading enough outside school, or with their fathers. 

Research commissioned for this report, including by Newcastle University, CentreForum, National Foundation for Educational Research and the National Literacy Trust, also finds:

  • GDP in 2025 could be £32 billion higher if action had been taken to ensure all children were reading well by the age of 11
  • A wide ‘book gap’ in the UK has emerged, with almost a quarter of 11 year olds in the poorest families having fewer than ten books in their home
  • While books remain popular, the most commonly read material by children is now text messages with websites and e-books also growing in popularity

Fergus Cooper, Head of Country for Save the Children in Northern Ireland, said: “Our report highlights that children from the poorest households will do less well than their better off peers. Four out of ten children on free school meals who struggle to read will also struggle to gain the educational opportunities and are more likely to end up in low paid jobs trapped in a cycle of poverty.”

Read On. Get On. aims to create a nation of strong readers by:                 

  • Supporting parents to read with young children for ten minutes a day
  • Urging the public to volunteer to help disadvantaged children improve their reading
  • Building a powerful coalition of the county’s most influential public, private and charitable organisations to pledge to support the mission
  • Urging all political parties to support the 2025 target and two interim 2020 goals

Fergus added, “New analysis in the report shows that if the UK had, in recent decades, taken action to ensure that all children, regardless of background, were reading well at 11 then GDP this year would have been boosted by £13.8 billion.  This equates to over £500 per household. Read On. Get On. seeks to mobilise civil society to support the reading mission and children’s education. Every child should have an equal chance to become a happy and confident reader by eleven.”

Kieran Harding, Managing Director of Business in the Community in NI, which is part of the coalition, said: “Getting reading right at an early age is imperative for any child’s future. Since 1999, we have been running our ground-breaking Time to Read programme which has been recognised internationally as being in the top 5% of interventions of its type.”

“Time to Read provides opportunities for local business volunteers to read once a week on a one-to-one basis with nine year old children, supporting their reading progress and improving their reading outcomes. Last year over 500 business volunteers participated and we look forward to engaging more volunteers in the current school year. We are pleased to support the Read On. Get On. campaign as we work towards a common goal of helping children to enjoy reading well.”

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Last updated 5 years 8 months ago