How to raise paper-friendly kids

In the age of touch-screen-this and thumb-typing-that and crush-candy-the-other-thing, this woman outlines her process for creating a little bookworm out of the lump of clay that was her daughter.

Bookworms like Flora, it seems, are dying out. Research by the National Literacy Trust in today’s Observer reveals that just over half (53%) of children read for pleasure in 2019, down from 59% in 2016. Only a quarter read daily, compared with 43% in 2015. The majority of children of all ages now prefer screens to books, another recent survey found.

So how do you raise a bookworm in 2020? Personally, I started by prioritising my own pleasure. While my husband didn’t mind reading Flora the same books each night, I found it too monotonous. So I scoured charity shops and school fairs and built up a large collection of picture books I genuinely wanted to read to her – a mix of current bestsellers and classics. And that’s when I started to notice a pattern.

All the picture books were heavily dominated by male characters. It was rare to meet a female heroine – rarer still to encounter a female enemy or predator. It didn’t seem to matter how recently the books had been published, most of the characters were male – especially if they were powerful. And the male characters spoke more often.

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