This is an incredibly depressing statistic, but one that I wish had been accompanied by more background information and context. I read it in a BBC article entitled “National Literacy Trust highlights book-free millions” published last week. According to the BBC, a new report by the National Literacy Trust indicates that the proportion of children without books is increasing, and now stands at one in three, compared to one in ten in 2005.
Reading has an incredibly beneficial impact on children’s literacy, how well they do at school, and how well they go on to do in their working life. As I was reading the story, my immediate reaction was to deplore this state of affairs, and I was desperately trying to figure out how things had got this bad. After all, most children still have access to libraries (even though they are not as well funded by the authorities as they once were), and the link between reading and education has been well publicised over the past few years.
This thinking process led me to wonder what the impact of general access to the Internet had on these statistics. After all, I am a prime example of someone who no longer buys physical books – I simply download eBooks. And if anything, the Internet has made the reading of classics – which have no copyrights – a totally free endeavour. There are dozens of sites where anyone can download hundreds of free books.
So, my question is: are these statistics published by the National Literacy Trust a true reflection of how many books young children read. I have no answer to this question by the way, so if any of you out there know the answer, please let me know.
I really wish journalists made more efforts to present context when reporting these kinds of stories. More often than not, they just leave me wondering what the facts really are.
And since we are in the topic of context, in the same week, we saw Channel 4 News report on the fact that we are in “a golden age of fiction for teenagers”. The two stories, which were published two days apart from each other, seemed to be quite contradictory. Channel 4, who published their story after the BBC made no reference to the National Literacy Trust, which I thought was a great shame.
I thought it was very good news to find that teenage books such as the “Harry Potter” or the “Twilight” series had such a positive impact on teenagers’ appetites for reading, but I couldn’t really get that excited about it in view of the previous numbers reported in the BBC article. I wonder how many of these ‘young adult’ books are actually read by fully-grown adults? After all, I have seen many people in our own office carrying these books around, and whenever a new Harry Potter got released, most of the people reading it on the tube or the bus were adults…
So, it was a week marked by conflicting stories on children’s literacy. Still, as I am a 'glass half-full' kind of person, I can’t help but feel quite positive about the fact that this resurgence in teenage fiction has had a very beneficial impact on our industry. I am quite sure that many future VFX stars will have been inspired to work in CG by the likes of the Harry Potter films.