Tuesday, 6 December 2011

If 3.8 million children in the

United Kingdom do not own a book then how many children in Australia do not own a book? What would happen if every child owned just one book? Why do children not own books?
I do not know the answers to those questions.
I suspect there are, proportionally, at least as many children in Australia who do not own a book. There may be even more. Although more people visit libraries each week than go to football matches in Australia that does not mean Australians read more than their UK counterparts. There are other reasons to visit libraries these days. There are magazines, CDs, DVDs and other items to borrow. There are computers to use. There are groups that meet which have nothing to do with books. Our local library has just done a "clothes swap" for the local teenagers. (It was apparently a roaring success.) Over the summer there will be craft sessions for children and story telling.
Books will be borrowed but, of course, even if you borrow books you do not necessarily own them.
After my visit to the vampire yesterday I had to go into the city. While I was there waiting for something else I wandered in to what had once been our local branch of Borders. It is, at least for a short time, another book store but it is not the same sort of book store. It is one of a chain of stores which sell "remainder" books.
These places bother me. I do go and look because sometimes there are single copies of books that have been sent as samples that local stores have decided not to stock. I have bought a number of useful books this way but I know that the author probably has not got a cent - and that bothers me.
There was a lot of adult fiction there as well as the usual cooking and gardening books. There were out of date travel and reference books. There were the cheaper sort of jigsaw puzzles and some cheap Christmas CDs I did not bother to even look at.
There were also some picture books for young children. They were not good picture books. These are books that do not appear to have an author. There is no name on the cover for either author or illustrator. The paper was poor quality and the print was poor quality. They still cost several dollars each. Better than no book at all? I do not know. I left them there.
There were no fiction books for "confident readers" or "middle-grade readers" or "young adults". I know I can find some of those in my local independent bookshop but, even there, the range is necessarily limited by space.
It is also, I think, limited by a belief that children do not want "those sort of books as presents". The theory seems to be "why give a child fiction if you can borrow it for nothing from the library?"
I still have the books that I had as a child. I read and re-read those. Admittedly we did not have television and there were no computers. There were fewer other distractions as well. I do wonder though, do all these distractions really mean that children do not need to read as much? Do they really mean that children do not even need to own a book?
I would have thought that now, more than ever, all children should own a book they love. They need a comfort-book like a comfort-toy. They need something they can go back to, something which is familiar and unchanging in a world which is constantly changing.
Perhaps it is time for a "buy a book for every child" campaign. Good books do make good presents!


Donna Hosie said...

Where does that statistic come from? I simply don't believe it.

Anonymous said...

I think Cat's quoting from the National Literacy Trust Survey - I know it got quite wide publicity in England. Chris

catdownunder said...

Donna, Chris is correct - the figure came from the National Literacy Trust. I did put "if" in front of what I was saying!

Anonymous said...

Sad ... I have met whole families who don't own a book, so I guess this is not the first generation who haven't owned books as children.

Judy B