Former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo has joined with the current Laureate Joseph Coelho, and every single Children’s Laureate since its inception, to call on the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer to commit to a long-term investment in books and reading for children under seven.
In an open letter, Morpurgo, commented: “It is not right that children from poorer backgrounds are deprived of a life that is rich in reading.”
The letter highlighted evidence for the wide-ranging benefits given to children who are read to early on, citing a profound impact on educational success, language development, mental well-being and relationships. Malorie Blackman, Sir Quentin Blake and Julia Donaldson are among the former Children’s Laureates who have signed in support of the letter.
New statistics from BookTrust show that although 95% of parents with children under seven know how crucial reading is, one in five children aged 0-4 have a book read to them less than once a month.
Further research from the charity shows that less than half of children are read a bedtime story and only half of children aged between one and two from low-income families are read to daily.
With an increasing number of children in the UK living in poverty due to the cost-of-living crisis, the Laureates are calling for comprehensive support for low-income families, explaining that without a national approach more and more children will miss out.
Cressida Cowell, Laureate from 2019-2022 commented: “A child who is read to has a much better start in life than a child who is not. That’s not fair because all children should have the same chances, the same opportunities, no matter what their circumstances. Together we can help make this happen, but it must be something that government invests in – which is why all the Laureates have come together to support this urgent call for national investment in early years reading.”
Morpurgo’s letter comes as BookTrust launches its Reading Together campaign, outlining what needs to be done to support families to become regular reading families in the early stages of a child’s life.
Morpurgo said: “Reading Together, BookTrust’s inspired new and timely initiative, will aim to ensure that millions more of our children have the sure start they need to discover early the enjoyment of reading, and so have the opportunity to hear and read stories and poems, that is their right.”
Within the "Reading Together" paper, BookTrust outlines four proposals intended to prompt a national debate about how the UK can lay down foundations for a child’s start in life and establish a comprehensive programme for under-7’s reading.
The proposals aim to: embed reading in the life of every low-income family by providing books, resources and reading experiences; provide sustained support, books and resources to help vulnerable children and families who can benefit most from the special characteristics of reading together; help midwives, health visitors, librarians, family support workers and early years teachers promote family reading and help primary teachers become even more powerful advocates for reading for pleasure.