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International Literacy Day: Saturday 8 September, 2018

OPINION

International Literacy Day: Saturday 8 September, 2018

By Chloe Wright

Chloe Wright is a literacy advocate and CEO of the Wright Family Foundation, which supports literacy initiatives.

Today International Literacy Day will be celebrated around the world. With a theme of ‘literacy and skills development’, the focus is on highlighting how literacy and skills can ultimately improve people’s lives and work, and contribute to equitable and sustainable societies.

It’s certain that literacy has a profound impact on the workforce and productivity. Earlier this year, it was reported that a million New Zealanders have a literacy level below that which the OECD deems necessary to fully participate in society - equivalent to a reading age of about 12.

At the same time, the Book Council is becoming increasingly alarmed at the literacy rate of New Zealand adults and children. Forty percent of adults in this country cannot read at a day-to-day functioning level, the council says.

While Government and business scramble for answers to the literacy crisis, the solution lies at going back to the beginning.

OECD research shows that reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s future success. It’s a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background. Studies have found that exposure to fiction increases empathy, as well as having a positive correlation with social support.

By inspiring a love of books and reading in children, we will empower them to develop the literacy skills they need for success.

Investment in initiatives such as the Kids Lit’ Quiz and New Zealand Spelling Bee helps develop literacy skills in the children who are our future. We support the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, because inspiring books are needed in order to ignite the passion of our young people.

Improving the literacy skills of the workforce is growing in importance as sectors become digitised and automated. But rather than providing an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff of the literacy crisis, by inspiring a love of literacy and focusing on children, we are future-proofing our country and unleashing potential.

They key is to support communities and families from the start of a child’s life and focus on literacy from the beginning.

The importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life to their future outcome is well documented. The early years are a crucial and unique opportunity in a child’s intellectual and emotional development, setting the stage for their lifelong health.

This was the focus of our Love Grows Brains campaign launched last year, to share this message in simple language with anyone who interacts with young children. As neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis says, “the more love and interaction a baby experiences in the early years, the more developed their brain will be.”

The greatest gift to your family is spending time together – cuddling up on the couch, each person in their own world of reading, surrounded by family.

By supporting parents and communities, we are enabling them to form those crucial bonds and connections with their child, setting them up for success in literacy and life.

ENDS


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