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The person who deserves the most pity is a lonesome one on a rainy day who does not know how to read

25th February 2021

‘The person who deserves most pity is a lonesome one on a rainy day who does not know how to read’. ( Benjamin Franklin).


During lockdown I for one, have found books a huge consolation. Unable to meet with friends and family, books have been welcome companions and while travel has been limited, they have provided new places to explore, inspire and educate.  Marcel Proust wrote that ‘the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes’. And that’s what a good book can do, enable us to see through new eyes, developing empathy for the experience of others and insight into places we may or may not be able to visit. Books can change people’s lives and perspectives, and bring others together, even when they come from vastly different backgrounds. They can also simply entertain and make us laugh, an important antidote to stress or anxiety – books can be good for our mental health!

While most of us take access to books for granted, with schools and libraries closed during the pandemic, the existence of ‘book poverty’ has become evident. This is a cause that has been taken up by footballer and child poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford (MBE). Following his campaign to call the nation to account for child food poverty, he has joined with the National Literacy Trust to raise the issue of Book Poverty.

Recent research by Oxford Brookes University has highlighted the widening literacy gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers. In the poorest UK communities it is reported that 1 in 11 children do not have a book of their own.

Since there is a clear link between child poverty and reading, Marcus Rashford has involved himself in forming a book club with the publishers MacMillan to tackle this inequality. In addition the campaign calls for the government and individuals to address the problem.

Access to books and the ability to read is essential to combat poverty. It is also essential for all young people when it comes to tackling issues including future plans, success, sadness, anxiety and mental health. Reading can open up new perspectives and help us all feel ‘less lonesome on a rainy day’.


Christine Crossley

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