A new report by the National Literacy Trust shows that the number of children in the UK who do not own a book has tripled in the last seven years from one in ten to one in three, writes Andy Bloxham at the Telegraph.
The report, entitled âThe Gift of Reading in 2011 – Children and Young People's Access to Books and Attitudes towards Reading', surveyed 18,000 children aged between eight and 16. And alongside showing this alarming rise, it also indicated that that boys are more likely to be without books than girls, children who are eligible for free school meals are less likely to own a book than their more wealthy peers and those who own books are more likely to perform better at school.
The report shows that children who don't own any books are three times more likely to have below average literacy levels.
Jonathan Douglas, the director of the National Literacy Trust, said that the results were of "particular concern":
"We know there is a direct correlation between book ownership and children's reading abilitiesâ¦ With one in six in the UK struggling with literacy it is very worrying that many children could be missing out on opportunities to develop these essential skills."
"Reading is such a magical carpet to other worlds. It's really very depressing news," said author Jilly Cooper.
"It is one of the most pressing issues for children – it's not just the pleasure that reading brings but also the information they contain and the skills that children acquire through reading."
Mark Taylor of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals said:
"It is absolutely essential that children and young people have access to books and reading.
"Children can get through a surprisingly large number of books, and not all parents can afford to buy the books their children need. This is one of many reasons why our libraries are so important, particularly public and school libraries."
The Department of Education has come out saying that, alongside extra funding, the Government's "synthetic phonics" system, which concentrates on pronunciation will boost reading levels among disadvantaged children.
A spokesman said:
"No child should miss out on the joys of reading. Everyone has a role in inspiring a lifetime's love of books in all children."
The report by the National Literacy Trust was commissioned to mark the launch of the Trust's Christmas Gift of Reading fundraising appeal.