Screens but no vision

This is truly a plague. One of the most cutting repercussions of the virus is the way it has widened the gap between the poor and those with the resources to manage.

Children stuck without school are supposed to be home learning. But how can you learn when there’s no room, no stuff, no quiet, no help. ‘More laptops!’ everyone cries, so we end up with kids staring at screens all day. And then we fret about mental health.

Yes, oversimplified, but there’s a truth there at the core. Here’s another one: reading books is good for kids. Very good. Children who read books for pleasure not only do well academically but reap multiple benefits: lower stress, better mental health, increased empathy and more.

In a story a young person can live another life and experience the world – temporarily escape from the confines of their present existence and its troubles. In factual books children can learn about everything and anything, and take joy from from fun facts. Books have wonderful poems, silly jokes, things to do. They grow the imagination and enrich the reader.

This is not an opinion. Numerous international studies from the planet’s best universities confirm that reading is of supreme value to the young, in multiple ways. The research is there, its conclusions are clear as day.

So why is there no national programme to get children reading at home during the pandemic? Why is there no government orchestrated media campaign to raise awareness among parents that books are invaluable at this time? Why are millions of superb children’s novels and factual titles gathering dust on the shelves of closed public libraries?

Those books should be in the hands of children at home, especially those who need them the most. Is it beyond the capabilities of a country that has been making endless emergency plans over the last year to come up with a safe way of doing this, aligned with authoritative messages about the importance of reading (and how to encourage it effectively)?

With the media on board, children’s authors mobilised (you know, those experts we never hear about), the lives of our children could be better right now. The gap could be narrowed.

Agree? Write to your MP. Tweet and post. Talk about it. As someone who has seen the transformational value of reading in the lives of many children, I am up for it.

 

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