Recently I was reading to my wee granddaughter, it being many years since I had done the same with her father and aunty.
I had forgotten the joy of reading to a child for both the reader and the child. I must admit I got as much fun out of reading the words written by a talented children's author as our little lass did.
Many of us would have seen that delightful video of the Scottish grandmother reading The Wonky Donkey to her grandson, written by New Zealand author Craig Smith, and laughed at her thoroughly enjoying herself while trying to hold the boy, tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks.
Reading to a child is one of the most important and loving gifts of time a parent or caregiver can offer. A child growing up surrounded by books in a family that reads is, in my opinion, a blessed and secure child.
The 2016 study, which assessed 5646 Year 5 children from 188 New Zealand schools, deemed more than a quarter had low, or less than low, literacy.
A 2018 study by the Book Council showed 40 per cent of adult New Zealanders were unable to read at a functioning level.
It also showed New Zealand 10 year olds were placed 33rd out of 50 in a worldwide study of reading among developed countries, well behind the highest-ranked nations, the Russian Federation and Singapore.
These figures, which I will assume are true, are shocking to one who has always considered the New Zealand education system as world-class. How do 10-year-old children not learn to read properly at school?
The most shameful statistic is the 40 per cent of adults who are unable to read at a functioning level. How do they cope?
I would surmise that if these raw figures were broken down further the factors of poverty, race, income, employment, substance abuse and offending would all be reflected.
Like many readers, I do not remember learning to read. Indulgent and loving aunties always told me I could read before school. I have no idea if that is true or just their wishful whimsy.
I grew up in a home where books were treasured, the weekly order of magazines, comics and periodicals arriving every Friday at Napier's bookshop in Naenae to be uplifted by mum and eagerly awaited by us kids.
We were all members of our local library and all had our own collections of books. Birthday and Christmas presents from relations always included books.
Comic swapping was rife in our neighbourhood. Somebody would turn up on the doorstep with a pile of comics and ask to swap. There would then be hours of pleasurable reading to follow.
The arrival one day of the 10 book set of Arthur Mee's The Children's Encyclopaedia with accompanying bookcase, admittedly a dated and imperialist British version of the world, was exciting. These were large leather-bound red books which today would probably be a collector's item.
We also received sets of classics over the years in leather-bound cases. These books were usually sold by door-to-door salesmen on the never-never plan in working class neighbourhoods. They were very popular and, being small books, were easy for children to read in bed.
Prior to television arriving, wet days during the school holidays were welcomed as opportunities to either go to the pictures or curl up with a book for the day in front of the fire, losing oneself in a world of fantasy.
Childhood illness was always another good opportunity to get a book out once one had got over the really miserable part of whatever ailment suffered.
Later, marrying the nurse-bride who also came from a "booky" family, we always made books and reading a huge part of our own children's lives together with dinner table discussions which, as teenage years arrived, became much more interesting and sometimes somewhat challenging.
By then our children also had other distractions, decent children's television shows, videos, Walkman sets, but they always returned to books, something they still do today as adults, with their own book collections.
The onset of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown was, in some ways, bliss for me.
I had no distractions from reading other than the odd bit of writing and a spot of telly.
Our friendly courier drivers continued to deliver books ordered on the electronic interweb, delivered at a safe distance on the patio.
I know many found lockdown tedious and boring, some perhaps not discovering the wonder of reading as a childhood pastime or having simply not being able to achieve the basic skills involved.
It is appalling that our education system has failed these people.
Literacy and numeracy are the two most important skills a child needs to achieve any form of success in life.