Why should we bother reading a book? All children say this occasionally, as do a third of adults in the UK who do not read for pleasure. But in an era of advancing technology, dwindling attention spans and growing time poverty – why should we invest our time into getting stuck into a good book?
Today (5 March) is World Book Day, a date aimed entirely at focusing our attention on the importance of reading and books. While it is tempting to abandon literature in favour of television or the readily accessible virtual world of the internet, reading is a human right that has established society as we know it. Giving up on reading and books, whether it is a gnarled paperback or an ebook, would change the very nature of our species.
So why should we promote a love of reading among children? Robin Stevens, author of the Wells and Wong Mysteries series, explains how stories give children the tools they need for a successful future.
Her first book, Murder Most Unladylike, was published in 2014 and her latest instalment, Arsenic For Tea, winner of the Waterstones children's book of the month for February and a Sunday Times children's book of the week, is out now.
"Reading gives children the tools they'll need to succeed in life – companies need literate employees, after all," Stevens tells IBTimes UK. "But it is more than that, it gives children the ability to dream. It shows them what other lives are like, and what their own lives could be."
"It gives them compassion and helps them grow their imaginations – stories are a big part of how we work out of the puzzle of being human."
Recent figures from the National Literacy Trust's 2013 annual literacy survey of 30,000 eight to 16-year-olds are encouraging. Around 53.3% of young people enjoy reading "very much" or "quite a lot" – surpassing the highest level of reading enjoyment the charity recorded eight years ago 2005. Only 10% said they did not enjoy reading at all, the lowest level recorded in four years. Yet still only a third of young people (32.2%) read outside of class every day.
While we know reading is the foundation of all education, perhaps even more significant is its emotional role in a child's development. Being absorbed in a book and lost in a story can open up endless emotional and imaginative avenues that are unmatched by any other form of entertainment. This is the aim of World Book Day – not just to promote reading but a love of it.
"World Book Day is a fantastic, and very successful way to publicise and engage the public in reading and a reminder that we must all work together to put reading and the joy of reading at the heart of our culture," says Abigail Moss, deputy director of the National Literacy Trust.
Later in 2015, the charity will launch a project among businesses, to promote the literacy skills needed to develop a passion for books.
"The National Literacy Trust is passionate about the role of business in addressing the literacy challenge and we're currently working with KPMG to unite businesses to take action to improve literacy and employment opportunities for all," Moss adds. "We hope that businesses will take this opportunity to take action in their local community to provide children with the literacy skills they need to fulfil their potential."
You can share your World Book Day experience using the hashtag #WBD2015 and find an event near you.