Straight Talk About Reading: Is London Failing Our Kids?

by Donovan Grant on June 13, 2011

Straight Talk About Reading: Is London Failing Our Kids?

By Donovan Grant

"Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations" ~ Henry David Thoreau

Could London’s schools be failing our kids?

Are the parents to blame?

Is this just newspaper propaganda?

"One in four children leave London's primary schools at age 11 unable to read properly. This is a betrayal of our children because reading is an essential tool for life." – The Evening Standard

Now we know that newspapers get read more when they have eye catching headlines, well this one had the whole carriage on the 18:27 Charing Cross train transfixed.

The thing is- if you are like me when I read that headline, you will be shocked too. 25 out every 100 children aged 11, cannot read! Ouch!!!

What does this do for the development of the child?

Let’s think about this for a moment, when a child can’t read what are some things that they are likely to do?

  • Sit in the classroom disengaged
  • Be disinterested in studying even their favourite subjects
  • Give up on many things that are normally fun
  • The child self esteem drops to a low point
  • Be disruptive t the rest of the class.

Not being able to read at that transitional age and beyond is just not good at all!

It’s easy to blame schools, blame government or blame the internet for kids not being able to read. Should we be looking a bit closer to home for the reason? Should we even be looking in the mirror? Look,… we are not looking to blame anybody for why children do not read well at age 11; we are looking to find solutions. We want to see children in London and around the world given the chance to read for fun, enjoyment and entertainment because they can!

Here are just a few of the benefits those children who can read experience:

  • The development of the child is easier
  • Children know how to spell
  • Their critical thinking skills improve
  • They are introduced to a great world of knowledge
  • Children’s self-confidence and self-esteem increase
  • Their performance in school is higher.

I appreciate that some children are challenged with learning difficulties and they need specific help to improve their reading ability. This is in no way to be taken lightly. What about others who do not face this challenge? How can you help them to move from "I hate reading" to "Reading is fun!” The development of the child is priority #1.

If I were the Prime Minster, I would make it a rule that reading is passed through the generations just like an inheritance. It is a valuable asset and deserves to be taken seriously. It's time to help a child. If we can go back to basics and apply patience, effort and commitment from you and your child reading can easily become the norm.

Listen, I know that I may be preaching to the converted, but this is a topic that I am truly passionate about. Unfortunately I never had the option of my mother or father reading to me as a child. Yet, Jen and I have read with our three children from a very young age and it has given them a love of reading. As they got older we would introduce more challenging books and we used to read a chapter each of a night when possible. I can’t recall how many times that I read The Jungle Book or Beauty And The Beast; it was worth it!

Quite possibly, when we are raised a certain way without someone to help with reading in the start, you never learn properly. Then as a teenager or an adult, you are too busy and don't see the need and you never get to fulfil your potential as a person.

If you have a reluctant reader in your family or community, these ideas may be useful to get them moving forward as a read:

  • A good place to start is explaining to your child the benefits of reading
  • Take them to the library weekly to choose their own books
  • Be more involved in the process by sharing some of the reading yourself
  • Go over any new words and read to him/her again to reinforce it
  • Have a day where you switch off the TV or video games for a while and have a reading and discussion session
  • Let your children see you reading – especially if you’re a man because many boys think that reading is just not cool
  • After school programs, mentoring & youth programs are all good for confidence building
  • Check out the Evening Standards campaign at http://getlondonreading.vrh.org.uk/

We all have the ability to become a successful tutor for almost any child. It is not just the teachers who can teach our children to read.

When a child is able to read fluently they have a gift for life that can open up doors that would otherwise remain closed.

Let’s help a child and give them the gift of reading!

I believe in you and your dreams.

Donovan Grant is a coach, mentor, blogger, speaker and IT professional who brings his wisdom of parenting for the last 21 years and coaching clients through the stages of raising youth and empowering leaders with life lessons that are changing generations.  He is a passionate and committed leader who believes that we all have the ability to help to change someone else’s life. Actively doing so as a catalyst for many years he teaches how to live a life of success, balance, integrity and fun, whether at work or at play. www.donovangrant.com


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  • Thank you Donovan for sharing this. Books are a passion of mine, I’d call myself a geek 😉 …so yes your gentle advise is great reminder to parents  – thank you!

  • A book passion – wow a lady after my own heart? What is your favourite book that you’ve read this year?

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