Our children are neglected in all the ways that matter
PUBLISHED: 18:10 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 18:10 21 November 2018
Rachel Moore says material comforts are no substitute for spending time with our children reading and opening up their imaginations
Children who are clean, warm and well-fed in comfortable homes are still victims of neglect.
Material benefits means they’ve never been so physically healthy and strong, but too many are suffering stunted development, their futures threatened, because they have no access to a vital staple in their pre-school years. Books.
Book deprivation is symptomatic of a society that doesn’t value education.
Books are the seedbed to feeding imaginations, opening new worlds and sharing special times, reading and learning together.
But the precious ritual of bedtime stories is being sacrificed for parents’ social media time. Tuck in and lights out as quickly as possible to get to their phones on the sofa, skipping the most special child-parent time of the day, the night-night story.
The Department of Education says now that white British five-year-olds are at a disadvantage in the classroom because books and reading at home are not a priority.
They have fallen behind their ethnic minority classmates. Reading rates among Chinese, Indian, black, Asian and mixed race children is now higher than white British children in our schools.
This time it’s not about poverty. Learning and education is simply viewed among the other groups as the fundamental route to doing better than the previous generation.
For too many entitled white British, being seen to learn is scoffed at and mocked. The cool kids in school are still those who tease the “keenies.”
Being stupid – playing stupid – remains more acceptable than being bookish.
Even home styles and interior design for the aspirational have banished the book to the great dump of the unfashionable and untidy.
When did you last see a book case in an interior design feature? They’ve gone the way of the gramophone and hostess trolley.
Clean lines and minimalist design are spoiled by shelves of multi-coloured books.
So, in the name of neatness and time-saving, children are losing out on an essential part of childhood, sharing a love of books, story-telling and imagination.
Add this to the long list of social skills and basic behaviour issues first school teachers are facing in the classroom – toilet training communication, eye contact, using cutlery at the table – our children are being neglected and not prepared for the world, which means a big F in parenting.
Undervaluing education and its power to improve lives is a mindset that, as a nation, we’ve done little to shift. And the children are paying, which then shapes their adult futures, putting them at a disadvantage from the start. Who willingly makes their child disadvantaged?
Whatever age children start to read properly, they’re never too young to enjoy books. Some of my best parenting memories were snuggled up with my boys and picture books, starting with baby cloth books, moving through the Gruffalo and Where the Wild Things Are books, the wonderful Dr Seuss, enjoying them build their vocabulary, becoming absorbed into a different world, until they became independent readers.
The government is investing £26 million in a national network of English hub schools to improve the teaching of phonics, how children learn to read, but it can’t be achieved without the buy-in of parents.
A home without books and a child brought up without being read to is deprived.
This comes at a time when teacher recruitment in the UK is in crisis with the government turning to burned-out bankers and engineers disillusioned with their career treadmill to switch to teaching in deprived secondary schools whose learning is thwarted even more by a string of supply teachers.
If they thought the city was hard for six figure salaries, engaging and winning in teaching maths and sciences to classes of 30-odd 15-year-olds would feel like scaling Everest in bedroom slippers and a nightie.
National teacher recruitment targets have been missed for five years.
The rewards, however, must be phenomenal, but teaching today takes incredibly special characters, and their pay doesn’t reflect that, more key evidence to show how we undervalue education as a nation.
We can all help turn the tide. Buy books this Christmas. Children are swamped in plastic rubbish with no educational value.
Invest in a child’s future this year with a book. Pass it on.
‘Tis the season to buy tat
Tomorrow is Black Friday, the hideous US rip-off of pre-Christmas discounting aimed at suckers who believe the hype.
A blizzard of adverts has raged all week promising mega deals across the board in shoppingland.
Unsurprisingly, many of these ‘deals’ aren’t real.
Which? revealed the load of old flannel us gullible shoppers fall for. Nine out of 10 “deals” in last year’s Black Friday bonanza had been even cheaper at other times in the year.
They take us for fools, but we’re so easily hoodwinked by a sale sign.
Be clever tomorrow. Research before you buy and spend wisely.