From the Guardian (not something I read every day):
Three in 10 children in the UK do not own a single book of their own, with alarming implications for their future prospects, according to new research. The survey by the National Literacy Trust also shows that boys are less likely to own books than girls.
The survey of 18,141 young people found that four in 10 boys did not own any books, compared to three in 10 girls. Children who did not own books were two-and-a-half times more likely (19%) to read below their expected level than children who had their own books (7.6%), and were also significantly less likely (35.7%) to read above their expected level than book-owning children (54.9%). The online survey took place in November and December last year, with the majority of participants aged between 11 and 13 years old.
"People tend to think that literacy is an international development issue, [but] actually we have got massive literacy problems in this country," said Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust. "To be brutally honest we weren't expecting [the number of children without their own books] to be so high. We know that book ownership in this country is really strongly linked to literacy issues and social mobility."
That's just sad. I come from a book owning family. Between our house and the houses of my parents and siblings, we have somewhere in the order of 10,000 books - and the majority of that is serious, non-fiction. Our family simply loves to read - anytime, anywhere. We all have the ability to lose ourselves in a book - to get so engrossed in what we are reading, we don't hear anything that's going on around us.
For once, I trust the results of this survey - I've been into plenty of houses where I've gone from one end to the other seeking a bookcase, and have found none. I like to poke around in people's bookcases to see if they have anything worth reading - whenever friends visit us, they always borrow a couple of books (sometimes an entire bag full) and swap them over on their next visit. I've seen houses that have massive libraries of movies on DVD and video games, but no books apart from the Yellow Pages. Plenty of people just aren't into reading books.
It's all about choice. We choose to not have pay TV or video games, and we only have one TV in the house. No one gets a TV in their room, and I'll die before putting one in the kitchen or dining room. We have no budget for books - if anyone in the family sees a book they want, they can have it, no questions asked. The money we save on pay TV and video games etc is instead spent on books. We spend at least half an hour every night reading between two and four books to the young kids. And I mean every night. Not every school night - every night. That's our choice, and I am in total agreement with Mark Latham that it's the right thing to do. Others choose differently, and they reap the results.
You can lead a kid to a library, but you can't make them read.