By Jonathan Davies
The worrying state of literacy amongst children in the UK could cost the economy £32bn in growth by 2025, according to a new report.
The 'Read On. Get On' campaign, backed by Save the Children, the CBI and the Teach First charity, aims to get the main political parties to include in their 2015 manifesto a commitment to improving literacy skills in Britain.
The report believes that 1.5 million British children will be unable to "read well" by 2025.
Research commissioned for the campaign, by Newcastle University, CentreForum, National Foundation for Educational Research and the National Literacy Trust, found that the UK economy could be £32bn higher in 2025 if steps are taken to improve reading skills.
England is one of the most unequal countries in terms of reading ability, second in the EU only to Romania. The gap between the strongest and weakest readers is seven school years.
The research also found a "book gap" in Britain, with around a quarter of 11 year-olds in the poorest families in the UK having less than 10 books in the household.
Chair of the Read On. Get On campaign, Dame Julia Cleverdon, said: "It is tragic and unfair that children from the poorest families and the most deprived communities are least likely to read well at the age of 11 in the UK — one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
"Four out of 10 children on free school meals who struggle to read will also struggle to gain the educational opportunities and life chances that they need to flourish.
"The UK has the strongest link among developed nations between poor literacy and unemployment. This is a ticking timebomb for our long-term competitiveness. We know too that the die is cast early. By the age of three we can already see the clearest correlation between family income and the vital language development that leads to reading. This is not just a task for our schools — vital as they are."
Are you worried by literacy levels in the UK? Do you think improvements will help business? You can email your reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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