How Reading is the Key to Tackling the Impact of Poverty

Boy reading book from behind
Category: Bookbug

Neil Mathers is Save the Children’s Head of Scotland. Save the Children is part of the Read On. Get On. campaign to get every child in Scotland reading well by the end of primary school. Save the Children believes that reading is the key to unlocking a child’s full potential and to tackling the impact of poverty on children’s learning and development.

Reading to children in the early years helps to develop language, grow imaginations and encourage communication. The benefits are numerous. But too often, children with poor language skills fall behind in their learning at an early age and then struggle to make the most out of their education. The impact of this can last well into adulthood.  

For children from low income households, this is particularly pressing. Toddlers growing up in poverty are twice as likely as their better-off friends to experience language difficulties at age three, and one in five poorer children will leave primary school not reading well.

Toddlers growing up in poverty are twice as likely as their better-off friends to experience language difficulties at age three

That’s why Save the Children want to see stronger support for young children, so that they can achieve good early language skills by the time they start school. We know that the biggest difference can be made during these ‘golden’ early years. 

Changing the story starts at home. Right from birth, children will look to their parents to learn about the world around them. How often a child is spoken to and the number of new words they are introduced to in the early years sets the course for their language development. 

We need to make sure that all parents have the support they need to help their child develop strong early language skills. Families living in poverty face additional challenges – parents are under more stress, causing worry and a lack of confidence. Children often have access to fewer resources at home such as toys and story books and are less likely to spend time at the library.  

Save the Children believe that strengthening support for parents and carers will make all the difference. We’ve seen some exciting initiatives where speech and language therapists and early years staff have worked together to share techniques with parents and develop and deliver sessions on the importance of playing, talking and reading with their child. Evidence from Save the Children’s Families and Schools Together programme has also demonstrated the benefit of bringing together children, parents, staff and the wider community to strengthen relationships and give parents effective strategies they can replicate at home.  

Our aim is to help all children in Scotland, no matter where they live or their financial circumstances, to thrive in their education

Programmes like Bookbug have also been a breakthrough for families, providing fun sing-a-longs and story time sessions at the library and giving out free books in the Bookbug Bags. Bookbug encourages parents to nurture their child’s love of books, words and stories from a very young age – and to understand the importance of reading for their early development. 

Our aim is to help all children in Scotland, no matter where they live or their financial circumstances, to thrive in their education and achieve their full potential. We campaign for government to take action to support children and families living in poverty, and through our programmes we provide material support to families in need, helping to reduce the impact of poverty on children’s development.  

For more information about Read on. Get on in Scotland, click here.

 

Neil Mathers

Neil Mathers is Save the Children’s Head of Scotland.