Thursday, 7 March 2019

Book poverty

Apparently today is 'World Book Day'. I've just found that out. I've also just found out that 1 in 8 disadvantaged children in the UK do not own a single book. Not one. It got me thinking back to my childhood days, that were fortunately filled with books.

Books were just there. Obviously my parents provided them, and when I couldn't read them myself they read them to me. As soon as I could read, I did. All the time. I can vividly remember a particular book where there was an illustration of a city, seen from above, with the roads lined with buildings, showing where the shops were, the churches, the schools, the police station, the library - and I would lie on the floor tracing a route through this printed city with my finger. Another cherished possession was a set of 'The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Animal Life' which arrived at my home volume by volume over a period of months, clad in a garish yellow cover (see above). These were pored over relentlessly and I must admit to just assuming that all kids had access to books like these. My nostalgia button was pressed a couple of years ago when I came across a full set of them in a second-hand bookshop - part of me fantasised that they were my very own books that had come back to say hello. Lack of space on the bookshelves stopped me from buying them.

I loved nothing better than taking a book to bed with me and reading well into the night, defying parental wishes for me to go to sleep by reading by torchlight under the covers (yes, that cliche was carried out by yours truly). Graduating onto fiction this nocturnal reading could be Enid Blyton, Jennings and Derbyshire or Molesworth. I was entertained. I was educated. I escaped into another world - no, many worlds.

So the idea that there are kids out there with no books at all, or growing up in a family where books are either in short supply or that reading is discouraged and not promoted is very sad indeed. Those kids are going to miss out on so much, self-discovery for starters. If it is a lack of money that stops them from being able to read books at home, they are not being helped out with an easy visit to the local library. They are closing at a rate (127 last year) and are suffering from funding cuts, staffing shortages and, of those that do remain, a reduction in opening hours. These establishments rely more and more on the help of volunteers. There should be an investment being made here, which will be beneficial to the population as a whole, especially to its mental well-being. But, like so much in our f*cked up country, common sense and 'doing the right thing' seem to be missing.

6 comments:

Derek Faulkner said...

As a child growing up in the 1950's, I lived in a housed devoid of books but read constantly, because I borrowed books from the library. I read all the Famous Five books in that way and the early David Attenborugh, Peter Scott and Gerald Durrell books, and the wonderful Wind in the Willows, which I still read now. Surely, with modern technology, children have more access to books than we ever had.

Steve Gale said...

Modern technology has reduced mental intake to sound bites - books suffer as a consequence

Roman said...

You just described my childhood reading habits. Growing up in the Yorkshire Woollen District in the 50's and 60's money was in short supply but my parents always managed to buy us a book or two for Christmas. We had a weekly ritual of a trip to the library where I discovered so much that was not taught at school. I too have vivid memories of some books which, for sentimental reasons, I have purchased in recent years. Looking through them now I am transported back to my childhood, somtimes an illustration brings to mind an exact time and place. With the current prevalence for accessing information via the internet I wonder if today's children will be able to experience this sensation.

Derek Faulkner said...

I thought you could read books on the tablet things that many children have.

Steve Gale said...

The 'book' experience will be missing Roman, which as you and I know will be a great shame.

Yossarian said...

Your last sentence pretty much sums up the situation. We are entering the age of idiocracy. Otherwise everything's great. Apart from global warming. Oh shit.