The third lockdown has brought many costs. One of those is the closure of schools to all pupils, like the first lockdown, apart from vulnerable children and children of key workers. The damage to education cannot be understated and will be recognised for years to come. A part of children spending such time away from the classroom is their reduced access to books. Though some children may come from backgrounds where literary gems are all around their homes, that will not be the universal case for everyone.
Schools provided children with chances to access free school books. Especially in primary school, there was an opportunity to read books for free, which allowed families, regardless of wealth, to ensure their children were progressing. That will now be much harder. Thank goodness then, for the Oak National Academy. A government-backed virtual school has launched a virtual library, allowing children to read e-books during the third lockdown.
The notion that everyone should be able to access important fictional reads is essential and cannot be dismissed
The library was specifically made after schools were closed until at least the February half term. In reality, the closure looks set to be far longer, meaning children can access a free book every week from a specific author. Given that 4.1 million pupils have accessed the Oak National Academy recently, with more than 28 million lessons provided, the importance such books and access to reading offers cannot be underestimated.
By embarking on this scheme, the Academy recognises the importance of reading analysis being truly universal. The notion that everyone should be able to access important fictional reads is essential and should not be dismissed. Obviously, with schools being closed, that has been made far harder. That the books will be specifically accessible in e-book and audiobook form demonstrates how the education system has needed to adapt to the challenges of lockdown.
While the government has rightly focused on those currently receiving an education, the reality is books should be both universal and a lifelong passion
However, that doesn’t mean the situation is perfect. Evidently, the success of any such programme is based around children having access to broadband so they can read the books. With many children dependent on laptops for their learning, it is unclear whether this nice ideal can translate into a reality for reading. Obviously, technical issues will involve children needing to access the website and understanding how they can read such books.
Similarly, though one book a week is admirable, it doesn’t take account for different reading abilities. Some people might be able to get through a book in a matter of days. Being left bored waiting for another book is unlikely to inspire their future reading habits. The breadth and range of books available should definitely be increased to provide flexibility for varying academic abilities.
Such a programme in an ideal world wouldn’t stop at those who are in school. While the government has rightly focused on those currently receiving an education, the reality is books should be both universal and a lifelong passion. Often, many people don’t read in their later years precisely because that spark of love wasn’t ignited at primary school. If it was, it was subsequently dismissed and then the passion was eroded. It’s certainly easy for this to take place at secondary school.
A love for books and reading should be eternal. Programmes like this that can inspire a passion and interest in books should be celebrated. However, they will only work if all people are able to access the books available on offer. Furthermore, such a programme shouldn’t have to end when schools reopen. Anything that increases the availability and opportunities to read as part of a strong education system, inspiring future generations to appreciate the power of words, must be valued and cherished.