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There now exists a whole generation of children who have now grown up with technology and the internet at their fingertips - literally! When it comes to researching a topic, checking a spelling or searching for an alternative turn of phrase for our content, we no longer turn to a reference library, a dictionary or a thesaurus. Google has all the answers instead, without moving from our seat. Or talking to anyone.
In December 2016 The Literacy Trust told us "One in 11 (9.4%) children and young people said they do not have a book of their own at home, rising to one in eight (13.1%) children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Of these children, those who receive free school meals, boys of all ages and teenagers are the most likely to say they have no books of their own at home.
The research also found that children who say they own a book are 15 times more likely to read above the level expected for their age than their peers who say they don’t own a book (28.8% vs 1.9%) and are four times less likely to read below the expected level (12.9% vs 48.1%)."
Warning: you need to be over 40 to get this next bit but when I was little and you learned to cook it was your Mum or your Home Economics teacher who taught you. Then you graduated to owning a cookery book and you followed a recipe. If you wanted to learn how to fold paper into interesting shapes, you got a book on Origami (and got all competitive with your sister about it). When your Dad serviced your car on the drive at home, he probably had a Haines manual on the floor beside him - with pictures in of how to do it.
Books were where we got all our information before the internet. Libraries were the hushed halls of learning where all these marvellous tomes lived and you could borrow them, learn what you needed and bring them back 2 weeks later. As a child I longed to be a librarian, stamping dates in the fly leaf and shushing people! I have always loved books and recently I had a bit of a work-related epiphany when I realised the technological advances I always seem so keen to resist have actually delivered me the opportunity to finally be a part of the literary world at last. I'm a printer, we print mainly digitally now, the set up costs are minimal and print run lengths are low - in effect this means that I can print books now. I can print them in beautiful full colour, with lavish illustrations, with paper back or hard covers, on all kinds of papers and from a few pages to 100s. Thanks to the abundance of clever bookbinders in Leicester, I can also get the printed pages bound beautifully too. The world of books is now open to me and I am excitedly gathering authors and illustrators, publishers and promoters in this field into my contacts. And of course, we can use the internet to promote them and to sell them, to tweet and to post photos of them. I'm not so old-fashioned that I can't see the value of selling and promoting books online.
If you are terribly modern though and still prefer to get all your information from the internet you will probably have noticed an increase in apps and websites that are content driven - enticing you to subscribe in order to receive their "latest" material - this might be a new way of distance learning and bite-size courses can be delivered very effectively this way but hold on, you could just buy (or borrow) a book about it. You don't need wi fi or a screen that can be seen in the sun, you can just sit outside and read it. I don't need to sign in with Facebook or get a "buddy" to join me (does anyone realise that is just you sharing your data with them and doing their selling for them by referral?). Remember this - subscription sites are there to sell subscriptions - it actually doesn't matter what the content is. I'm not saying that is always a bad thing or that the content is not valuable but stop before you plug in your debit card details and sign up for the next £9.99 a month and ask yourself "couldn't I just buy a book on the subject and read that?" One that has been written by a qualified practitioner of that subject or produced by an Institution with genuine credentials.
A few other interesting facts about books (that I found on the internet so they must be true). According to Forbes : in 2017, (book) sales increased 1.9% over 2016 according to NDP Bookscan (they had increased 3.3% in 2016 over 2015, according to Publishers Weekly). This follows a period where e-book sales have declined and sales in audiobooks are on the increase.
So it is not just me saying it OK? Books are good news, they genuinely help you to learn; to read and to write is just the start of our education. They get people talking and sharing in real life. And best of all, once you own the book, there is no subscription necessary.