Read ‘n’ weep: child literacy on decline as children fail to identify Aslan and Dorothy Gale

Sainsbury’s research reveals that child literacy is on the decline in the UK, with children unable to identify once popular fictional characters. Just 22% of children know the Chronicle of Narnia’s Aslan, 10% The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy Gale and 3% Charlotte Web’s Charlotte. 

Instead, children are finding inspiration online, with 30% able to identify Jojo Siwa, an American YouTubber and dancer, 24% recognising Surprise Toys, a YouTube channel dedicated to watching people unwrap toys, and 18% identifying YouTuber Zoella.

The news comes as research from Sainsbury’s reveals that just 50% of children read for fun in their spare time, opting instead to watch television (78%), watch YouTube (70%) or play games on a tablet (57%). Three in four (75%) parents believe technology is to blame for the decline, and 83% wish their child would read more.

What’s more, concerning government data reveals that children attending 7,151 mainstream primary schools in England have a lower reading age than they should. It follows recent data revealing that one in eight schools have no library.

One of those schools without a library is Riverview Primary in Tolworth, Surrey. To encourage local children to read more, Epsom Sainsbury’s transformed an old London bus into an immersive school library for children to enjoy. Complete with colourful shelving, comfy bean bags and hundreds of books, the vibrant bus is hardly recognisable, with themed areas encouraging children to explore and get lost in their imagination.

What’s more, the pupils were delighted when Katie Piper paid a surprise visit and read to them on the bus, reading a selection of stories that encourage positive mental health and wellbeing in children.

The desire to help transform the bus into a library for the school comes as part of Sainsbury’s 150 Days of Community scheme, launched to mark their 150th anniversary this year. The initiative gives their 178,000 colleagues across the UK the opportunity to volunteer for a cause they feel passionately about in their local community from June to October this year.

When Sainsbury’s colleague and local parent Charlotte Guyett heard about the initiative, she felt passionately about getting colleagues to help make over the bus, which headteacher Mercy Atkins had acquired, and transform it into a library for the children to enjoy.

Simon Roberts, Retail and Operations Director at Sainsbury’s said: “We’re really excited to be launching this new library for children at Riverview Primary School, it’s exactly what the 150 Days of Community initiative was created for – to give colleagues the opportunity to volunteer for a cause they feel passionately about.”

Katie Piper added: When I heard that Epsom Sainsbury’s was transforming a bus into a library for a local primary school that didn’t have one before, I thought it was a truly lovely idea. Seeing the children excited to read was just brilliant.”

Charlotte Guyett, the Sainsbury’s colleague and local parent whose idea it was, said: When I heard that we had the opportunity to volunteer locally, I knew I had to suggest transforming the bus into a library and making the school’s vision of creating a beautiful library bus come true.

“I’m so pleased that we’ve been able to help and hope the children have years of fun ahead of them.”

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