Julia Lopez MP: Let’s make 10 minutes of reading the nation’s new habit
World Book Day recognises the positive impact that reading together for as little as 10 minutes a day can have on a child’s outcome. Julia Lopez wants MPs to spread the word
We all know to eat our five pieces of fruit and veg a day, even if the advice is not always religiously heeded! The breathtakingly effective ‘5-a-day’ public health campaign, running since the early 2000s, has now morphed into a national healthy-eating mantra.
What if the same simple approach could be taken to child literacy? Through the Share a Story campaign, this year’s World Book Day on 1 March hopes to do just that by encouraging a daily 10-minute storytelling slot to make reading with children routine.
Storytime is a crucial tool in improving a child’s reading and listening skills. Stories facilitate conversation, introduce children to more complex vocabulary and build confidence when it comes to reading aloud.
However, the impact of reading with a child can go well beyond improved literacy. Storytime can nourish relationships between parent and child, while good stories can help shape a child’s view of the world, enriching their outlook and introducing them to new ideas, places and people.
Stories can also act as important mechanisms for helping children understand and empathise with other people, and deal with tricky real-life situations by making a child think about how they might react to whatever scenario is being written about.
Stories need not be confined to bedtime or seen as only something parents can engage in. The 10 minutes could be an older sibling reading to a younger one on a long journey, or a grandparent snuggling up on the sofa and sharing a story with their grandchild.
Share a Story is a new approach from the World Book Day team, who hope for the first time to take their message beyond the school gates and get businesses and politicians involved in the literacy drive.
Every year, in a mission to encourage a love of reading, the charity distributes 15m book tokens to give children and young people a chance to own their own book – for one in three children in 2016, this was the first book they ever owned.
By spreading the 10-minute message in workplaces and encouraging MPs to promote the campaign to constituents, World Book Day now hopes to make a habit of every day story-sharing with children of all ages.
Great strides have been made in literacy in recent years, with England now ranking eighth in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, up from 19th, and Northern Ireland coming a place higher. Encouragingly, the English results are driven by an increase in the number of low-performing children reading well.
I saw this progress in action myself in November when I visited Broadford Primary School in Harold Hill with Justine Greening. Broadford last year won two top TES awards for primary of the year and overall school of the year, and was rated outstanding in 2014 after being in special measures only three years earlier. The school caters to a community where well over a quarter of children live in poverty, and its turnaround saw book clubs and reading leagues introduced, as well as a training programme for phonics.
Having seen the critical importance of reading to education outcomes in my own constituency and within my own family, I want to encourage as many colleagues as possible to join the Share a Story campaign on 1 March. On 28 February, before the big day, my office will be with the World Book Day team in PCH Interview Room 2 with social media materials to help spread the word.
Everyone knows about the importance of giving children their five pieces of fruit and veg a day. Now let’s make 10 minutes of reading the nation’s new habit.
To read more about the Share a Story campaign and to download helpful resources, visit http://www.worldbookday.com/ideas/share-a-story/
Julia Lopez is Conservative MP for Hornchurch and Upminster