Press release: Education Secretary hopes all children open a book this Christmas

As the clock ticks down to Christmas Day, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has expressed her hopes that children across the country find a book in their stocking, after figures from the National Literacy Trust showed nearly 1 in 8 children has never been given a book as a present.

This figure rises to nearly 1 in 5 disadvantaged pupils, meaning many potential ‘Matildas‘ may be discouraged from reading outside the classroom and missing out on the chance to build their confidence in reading. The latest key stage 2 results show 83% of disadvantaged pupils achieved the expected level or above in reading by the end of primary school, compared to 92% of non-disadvantaged pupils.

The survey of 32,000 children and young people aged 8 to 18 by the National Literacy Trust also suggests girls are more likely to find a book in their Christmas stocking this year – with 86% saying they had received one as a present compared to 79% of boys, showing misplaced gender stereotypes around reading may be influencing present purchases.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

I hope children across the country have the joy of opening a book this Christmas.

No other gift can transport you from ancient Egypt to the outer reaches of space, introduce you to kings, queens, wizards and elves, make you laugh, take you on an adventure or change the way you see the world, all through the power of words.

Encouraging all children to read widely and read well is a vital part of this government’s commitment to extending opportunity for all – the gift of a book this Christmas will not only provide hours of reading enjoyment, but will help set a child up for the rest of their life.

While the reading charity’s fifth annual survey, published earlier this year, showed enjoyment and frequency of reading are both at their highest levels for 9 years, too many children may still miss out on unwrapping a new story to enjoy this Christmas.

National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said:

We are urging everyone to give the gift of reading this Christmas so more children can discover the joy of books. The more a child reads, the better their writing is likely to be as well as their speaking and listening skills. Literacy empowers children, particularly from the most disadvantaged communities, to do better at school and beyond, transforming their life chances.

As part of this government’s one-nation agenda, the Department for Education wants all children to be introduced to the classics of English literature, especially if these books are not on their bookshelves at home. The department is calling on all publishers to make low-cost copies of classic novels available to secondary schools, giving more children the chance to read great literary works. Well-known children’s book publisher Penguin has suggested 100 books from their Black Classics that they could make available for low prices, and Scholastic has offered to give schools 26 books for as little as £1.50 a copy.

Evidence shows that children who develop strong reading skills early on are more likely to succeed at school, achieve good qualifications and go on to succeed in their adult lives and the world of work. Research by the National Literacy Trust has found that children and young people who read daily outside class are 5 times more likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with those who never do.

Earlier this year, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan launched an ambitious literacy campaign in a bid to make English pupils the most literate in Europe in 5 years and tackle the ‘long-tail of underachievement’ which still holds too many pupils back, particularly the most disadvantaged.

This includes:

  • new resources created in conjunction with 4Children, giving parents and early years providers high-quality resources to help children master the essentials of early language development
  • working with leading publishers to give secondary schools access to low-cost copies of classic English novels
  • partnering with the Reading Agency to extend its popular Chatterbooks model by creating at least 200 new book clubs across the country
  • supporting the Reading Agency to get more year-3 pupils enrolled at their local library and get more children into the library habit early on

These measures build on successful government reforms that have seen substantial and rapid progress towards tackling illiteracy since 2010. Following the introduction of the phonics screening check in 2012, 120,000 more children are now mastering the basics of learning to read and are on track to become excellent readers.

This Christmas, the National Literacy Trust has launched its own Gift of Reading campaign, which will help to give a disadvantaged child a book of their own for the very first time. The National Literacy Trust work with children and families in disadvantaged areas, inspiring them to develop a love of reading and giving them the chance to own a book of their own.

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