Monday, 6 June 2011

Illterate Britain

Hey guys!
Sorry for the large area of non update-dom >-<'''' life just kinda got to me, exams, conventions, birthdays, family things, loft conversion announcements, wedding plans etc etc. Not my wedding, duh! One of my dad's best friends! One of my honorary uncles is getting married to one of his girlfriends from before I was born, in August. And he only proposed to her about a month ago O.o crazy ne, but very romantic (*coughdramaticcough*). Admittedly these are all good things so when I say life got to me, I mean in a totally positive and good way!

Anywayz, today I wanted to talk about a more serious subject. I was reading the newspaper the other day and a recent look into the literacy levels of average Londoner's and British people revealed horrifying facts.
It's no secret that a lot of people have to deal with dyslexia, and other (I'm loathe to call them 'problems') disabilities that prevent them from reading as easily as others of their age, but what about those who's eyesight, and brain can interpret words perfectly well?

Recent reports have revealed that a staggering amount of 11 year olds in Britain start secondary school without the necessary reading skills to get themselves anywhere in life. Around 1 in 5 children leave primary school almost completely illiterate. My friend Maddy explained to me the other day that she was never taught what a comma was in primary school, and it was something she had to learn in secondary school.
This is disgusting. The title of the Metro article that I read was "Help! My Students can't read basic English Words". The article was written by a GCSE English teacher... It doesn't bear thinking about how basic those words were.

As someone who has been reading since they were 4 and a half, and loving every minute of it I just cannot understand how someone could let themselves become illiterate to that degree.
I still remember the first book I read on my own, and I remember being ridiculously proud of myself for reading the words "extremely large mansion" in 'A Series of Unfortunate Events: Bad Beginning' when I was 5.

I also read that when asked to "describe a country landscape" in a GCSE English paper, 80% of the students described a country western type scene. Cowboys, and dusty ghost towns with cactus trees on the horizon.
It would appear that today's youth (to risk sounding like an old crone) lack the social and life experiences to know what the vegiatble swede is, or to understand that when a question asks you to describe a country landscape, it means and English one. And guess where the government got all these statistics? From schools.

Now I'm not opposed to schools, but I am blatantly biased against them. I believe that they crush creativity, imagination, free thinking and instead instill the ability to accept and receive orders or whatever leaves the teachers mouth a the one and only infallible truth (hopefully I won't get too many flames for this point of view). I have plenty of friends that go to school, and whilst they are all amazing, clever and opinionated people I've come to believe that that is a very rare thing indeed in those educated at school.

From my own personal experience home educated children read a lot more than those that go to school. I'm not saying this is a definite fact, just something I've observed. As we are taught to read for fun, pleasure and enjoyment whilst in school it is something that has to be forced.

Another reason that the British population is becoming steadily more illiterate is because in an age where mothers are encouraged to deposit their one year olds in day care centers and go back to work there is less time for children to be read to. It doesn't have to be a lot of reading, but half a picture book every other night can demonstrate to a child that reading is fun, and it gives them a hunger to know the end of the story.

I remember my mother reading me The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events novels. As well as picture books like 'The Giant Turnip' and 'Mr Magnolia's Boot'.
I enjoyed those afternoons spent on the couch in our flat, eating salted cashew nuts and listening to 'Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire'. And once I was able to read I found other books, and read my father's books, picking up any literature available. Nothing was off limits, and never will be in my house, because my entire family -grandparents included- believe that we should be allowed to read whatever we like, my Grandma and Grandpa even gave me Tammara Drew for Christmas when I was 10.

I started reading veraciously when we moved out of our flat and into the house we still live in now. I progressed from Harry Potter and Twilight, Vampire Academy and Eragon, to The Spook's Apprentice, Skulduggery Pleasant, Sweep ( or The Wicca Series as it used to be called), The Colour of Magic and Mort. To Frankenstein, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, Wuthering Heights, Of Mice and Men, Pygmalion. Doctor Jakyll and Mister Hyde, The Lord of The Ring's and The Hobbit. Recently I've read ridiculous amounts of manga, graphic novels such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, blog articles and fanfiction. Admittedly I never finished Lord of The Rings but it's something I will do one day. All these things mature my opinions, give me more of a perspective on life, different ideals, make me question my beliefs in religion, justice and my own confidence and personality.
These great works of literature were written for people to laugh at, to cry at, to be angry with and to enjoy... so why don't more of us do these things?

There are a few people close to me who hate books, and will only read light novels and by that I mean EXTREMELY light. This is rather sad really. A friend of mine was very quick to call 'Oliver Twist' shit the other week. A comment to which I reacted to far less than I should have for fear of making her angry. She's never even read it, let alone seen a film or staged production of it.

If you read you lengthen your horizons and mature emotionally. Of course this does have it's downsides. Any teenage crushes are instantly dis-guarded as silly and pointless because I have already experience true love through the eyes of others a thousand times over. But we gain more from J.R.R Tolkein, John Steinbeck, Cate Tiernan and Joseph Delaney than we lose.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that by reading we gain life experiences, maturity, morals, and eloquent tongue, a clever brain and a depth in our personality and soul that without books we'd never have... It will never do you harm to read a book!

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