Make new year sales a reading opportunity for kids, urge teachers

90.6 per cent of young people say they have a book of their own at home

TEACHERS are urging parents to make the new year sales a reading opportunity for children.

Research found that more than 750,000 schoolchildren in Britain and Northern Ireland did not own a single book of their own.

The survey suggested these children were four times more likely than their book-owning peers to be below the expected standard in reading for their age.

Overall, 90.6 per cent of 8 to 18-year-olds said that they had a book of their own at home. However, this also meant that one in 11 (9.4 per cent) did not.

Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU), said the figure was shocking, especially as pupils in the north's primary schools are among the best readers in the world.

Data from the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study revealed that children in only two of the 50 countries, Singapore and Russia, performed better.

"It's a statistic which is hard to grasp in this day and age and given the fact that Northern Ireland children were recently shown to be among the best readers in the world," Ms Hall Callaghan said.

"This is great news and a real tribute to both the hard work of the children, their parents and their teachers. The problem is at the other end of the scale where we have some of the poorest levels of literacy and numeracy.

"This is undoubtedly the case given the high levels of child poverty we have in Northern Ireland and study after study proves the link between social and economic deprivation and academic achievement."

Ms Hall Callaghan said reading helped children maximise their potential. She also questioned why a `signature project' designed to improve reading, writing and counting skills in areas of high deprivation was wound up.

"Why was the literacy and numeracy drive shelved by the Department of Education when it has shown such a return - not only in children's reading attainment but in the fact that it used the expertise of newly qualified teachers struggling to get onto the teacher ladder?" she said.

"Many of the schools involved recorded not only improvements in reading and numeracy attainment, but also improved attendance among the children taking part and a general improvement in attitude towards school and learning.

"So if you're looking to treat children in the new year sales there are few things which could reap such positive rewards than receiving a book."

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