Belfast Telegraph

Northern Irish teachers appeal as nearly one in 11 children don't own a book

A leading Northern Irish teachers' union has issued an appeal for parents to use the New Year's sale as a chance to boost their child's reading intake.

It comes in response to a survey published by the National Literacy Trust earlier this month which examined a number of aspects of book ownership and reading.

One of the study's findings was one in 11 children or young person aged eight to 18 did not have a book of their own at home, with this figure rising to one in eight for children who received free school meals - a proxy indicator of socioeconomic background.

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union said it was a "statistic which is hard to grasp in this day and age".

"Study after study proves the link between social and economic deprivation and academic achievement," she said.

"If a child’s parents can’t afford to heat the house properly or give the child a good breakfast then of course that is going to impact on how that child will perform in school when they’re coming in cold and hungry.

"We have some of the highest uptake of Free School Meals in the UK too, so stands to reason that too many children probably won’t have books of their own at home. How can a parent justify buying a book when they’re struggling for money to keep the electric metre running?"

Ms Callaghan questioned why a literary and numeracy drive from the Department of Education had been shelved.

A literacy and numeracy programme had been in place in Northern Ireland from 2013 to 2015, and helped almost 19,000 pupils, as well as providing new teachers and staff.

The programme was axed due to a lack of funding.

Ms Callaghan said: "If you’re looking to treat children in the New Year sales there are few things which could reap such positive rewards than receiving a book."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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