We are barely functioning, literally takes a long hard look at New Zealand's literacy rates. The piece, by reporter Rob Mitchell, was published in the Dominion Post last week.
NZ Book Council Board chair Peter Biggs wrote a letter which was published in the Dominion Post on Saturday, June 23rd.
But here is our full statement in response to the article.
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Rob Mitchell’s piece We are barely functioning... literally (Stuff, June 16) shone a spotlight on New Zealand’s literacy problem.
International studies have shown that 43 per cent of adults in New Zealand struggle with literacy, getting by with only the minimum level of literacy needed for day-to-day life.
The New Zealand Book Council recently published research that found that almost 400,000 Kiwis didn’t read, or even crack open, a book in the last year.
31 per cent of respondents said they didn’t have time to read, 24 per cent didn’t enjoy it, and 16 per cent said it was easier to watch movies or television.
Yet the increasing demands of society mean more than ever that we need to be able to read to function effectively at work and in everyday life.
At the Book Council, we know that reading changes lives, and has the potential to break the poverty cycle in New Zealand.
Encouraging reading, especially reading for enjoyment, is critical to ensure all of us can be part of our nation’s prosperity. It’s even a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background.
Established in 1972 to champion reading and writing in New Zealand, the Book Council has been doing exactly that for 45 years. In recent years, our focus has sharpened to encourage more New Zealanders to read more.
We do this by delivering a range of programmes and initiatives. The best-known of these is Writers in Schools, which connects more than 100 authors with 40,000 children a year, from inner city to remote rural classrooms. We are working hard to make sure all students, especially those most vulnerable, have access to this programme.
Motivated by our research, this year we are launching an exciting project to reach young, reluctant readers in particular. This initiative will bring ‘book trailers’ to a major cinema near you, to connect the excitement of a blockbuster film with the book or comic it was based on.
While some may be quick to attribute blame to the education system, we believe literacy is everyone’s responsibility. Parents are children’s first teachers, and in the countries that have high literacy rates, parents read with their kids long before they start school.
They also read themselves, modelling to children that taking time for reading is important, enjoyable, and a normal part of everyday life.
But it’s not just parents – we all need to read more. When was the last time you ditched your phone for a paperback? When did you last read a picture book to a child?
You don’t need games or apps or to go on a course. Simply opening a book and reading to a child as often as possible is the best way to help them learn to read independently and to instil a lifelong love of books.
Let’s take the opportunity offered by our literacy rates to nurture a culture of reading and writing in New Zealand. We’re all responsible for that.