All children should experience the joy of reading
All children should experience the joy of reading

I devoured books when I was a child and have never lost the joy of reading. I loved being transported to different worlds through the writing of children’s authors like A.A.Milne and today I love reading Russian literature, especially Dostoevsky.

Literature has that power – to open a window into new worlds and fantasy lands, to explore ideas, ethics and morals and to empathise with people and situations that you would have no chance of experiencing in reality.

This World Book Day (3 March) we’re celebrating 25 years of enabling children from all backgrounds to develop a life-long habit of reading for pleasure and improve their life chances.

It’s a sad fact that nearly 400,000 children and young people in the UK don’t have a book of their own, and one in five 11-year-olds are unable to read at an expected standard by the time they go to secondary school.

The National Literacy Trust found that three out of five children – 59%, during lockdown said that reading helped them feel better. This is what we need to harness and pass onto all young people.

I recently joined Greenhill Library’s readathon and met children and their parents. It was great to see how enthusiastic they all were and to see how they loved being read to and read books themselves.

Since 2010, under this Tory government more than 800 libraries have closed in the UK. It’s a testament to volunteers in Sheffield Heeley that we still have so many libraries open for the public to visit and ensure that disadvantaged children in our community still have access to books.

I want to send a special thank you today to all those who volunteer in libraries and schools to help pass the joy of reading onto the next generation.

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