We need to book our kids a brighter future

The NZ Herald (5 Feb 2018) has published an article by Peter Biggs, chairperson of the New Zealand Book Council, titled 'We need to book our kids a brighter future', available here. Extracts from the article:

Books and reading open up new worlds and experiences, particularly for children and young adults. They also define and deepen our sense of ourselves.

Unfortunately, almost 400,000 Kiwis (about 10 per cent of us) are not taking the opportunity to use books as a lens through which to view and shape their understanding of the world and themselves. Book Council research last year showed almost half a million Kiwis were not reading, mainly boys and young men, meaning they were unable to function at work and in everyday life.

As well, this indicates many children are not being read to and do not see adults reading around them. This is a national tragedy. ...

So why does reading matter? And why is the Book Council determined to lead the way in building a nation of readers through initiatives such as Read to Succeed and Writers in Schools?

Firstly, research has shown reading is the most effective poverty buster around. The OECD considers reading for pleasure to be the most important indicator for future success as a child. In fact, research indicates parental involvement in a child's reading and literacy is a more powerful influence on the child's future than other family background variables, such as social class, family size and level of parental education.

Secondly, the lack of a reading culture in a family or community is proven to lead directly to disadvantage and risky behaviour, including truancy, exclusion from school, reduced employment opportunities, increased health risks and a greatly increased risk of involvement in crime later in life. ...

Lastly, recent scientific studies show reading builds empathy, a crucial life skill. According to the studies, reading fiction is a "social experience", compelling us to move beyond ourselves and enter and understand the consciousness and world view of the characters in the book. This enhances our empathetic ability, a must-have skill in navigating the complex social relationships which make up our modern lives.

Posted: Tuesday 6 February 2018