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World Book Night stresses fundamental necessity of literacy


19:51, April 23, 2013

LONDON, April 23 (Xinhua) -- The holding of World Book Night on Tuesday throws light on the surprising fact that one in six of the British population struggle with reading.

The figure comes from a survey in 2012 by the Literacy Trust, which found that nearly 17 percent of British adults had literacy skills below those expected of an 11 year old.

The same survey also found that at the crucial age of 16, when most British children sit their first significant batch of public exams in everything from English language to mathematics, those children from poorer backgrounds performed less well.

This link between relative poverty and rates of academic achievement was seen in exam pass rates, with just 21 percent of poorer pupils achieving the top grades in exams compared with 49 percent from more affluent backgrounds.

This handicap for poorer children starts early in life, with just 35 percent of five year olds in deprived areas reaching expected levels of learning, against 51 percent from other areas.

The national British charity Beanstalk has been working for decades to tackle problems of poor literacy rates among younger children.

Beanstalk's chief executive officer Sue Porto told Xinhua at her charity's London headquarters, "Literacy is the most fundamental foundation block for a child growing up in order to be able to give them the skills that they need in order to reach their full potential."

"I'm particularly passionate about that because my background was as a senior manager in the prison service for 16 years, so I have seen at first hand the impact of illiteracy and the all-too catastrophic consequences in terms of how it is so life-limiting for a young person."

She added, "I think reading books is of the utmost importance to a child because it helps them experience worlds and things that they might otherwise not experience and it helps to create that rich tapestry upon which life is built."

Beanstalk provides intensive, one-to-one reading support in primary schools for children who have struggled to learn to read.

It recruits and trains reading helpers from local communities and local businesses who go into schools twice a week for a minimum of a year and who work with children on an intensive basis throughout the course of that year to help them catch up to where they need to be.

Initial sessions would concentrate on relaxing the child and building a bond with the helper.

"Because for so many of the children that we work with they do not have a constant adult role model in their lives and they do not have anybody to give them that time just to have conversation. What we find is that if a child has very low confidence and very low self-esteem, they can actually be quite frightened of books," said Porto.

"All of our reading helpers are phonics aware. So, as part of our training we deliver phonics training although we don't promote any one particular reading methodology that they have to use, it is all about what works with the child," added Porto.

According to Porto, one in four young offenders in custody in Britain do not have basic literacy skills with poor consequences for society.

Porto said, "We saw in the summer riots of 2011 the catastrophic consequences of violence for communities. 48 percent of all the people arrested in the London riots were functionally illiterate. And from an economic perspective, illiteracy costs the UK economy 81 billion pounds in 2012."

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:HuangBeibei、Liang Jun)

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