WORLD BOOK DAY takes place today; a celebration of the joy of reading. I can remember as a child cherishing the book tokens and the subsequent deliberation over which book to choose. I thought today would be a chance to write about a topic which I believe presents an often underestimated challenge to society, namely the decline in the number of children and teenagers who read for pleasure. One manifestation of this issue is the impact it has on a child’s ability to research. Having worked for a time in education after leaving university, I was able to observe how frequently students used the internet to access vast amounts of free information; often typing word for word the title of an essay on Google search and then expecting the answer to be as easily obtained. There was very little desire to explore any given topic further and one has to wonder what effect this will have in terms of their further education, ability to demonstrate initiative and think independently.
The title of my blog reflects the course of events in my own life, the start of a career working with books but also indicates a love of ‘travelling’ by way of reading a book. It is a free form of entertainment being able to absorb the descriptive passages of a novel and view unfolding events through the eyes of a character in a book or discover new facts or places in nonfiction books. It is possible to travel around the world and trace the developments leading up to the modern world through the pages of a book. I believe that sense of wonder is worth attempting to instil in the children of today.
The main objective of World Book Day, this being its seventeenth year, is to encourage children to discover books and a love of reading. Now that publishers are embracing the digital age, I would hope that many more children, a new generation of readers, learn to love books in many different ways. A book is a friend for life so the sooner children start to handle books, look at the pictures and notice the symbols on the page the better. Of all the skills which small children learn from their parents, the most useful one which sets a steady course for successful access to the curriculum and familiarity with words and therefore learning, both in school and the wider world, is the ability to understand and handle language in its written form. Reading to children, however small, teaches them to focus, use their imagination and creates a curiosity for further investigation and experience in a huge range of subjects from astronomy to poetry and from historical epochs to lively fiction in all its forms.
A life without books is a sterile world. Children should be encouraged to read whatever their interest from comics to the great novels of English literature or from an encyclopaedia containing ‘mind-blowing facts’ to the latest teen read. Without books, children’s imaginations are stunted. The demands of the education system move swiftly and those who have not been introduced to books before they enter school are often at a continual disadvantage.