Editor's comment

17th December 2010 at 00:00

For all its thousands of pages, the latest Pisa results conveys a few clear messages. One of the most pertinent is that we abandon book-reading at our peril.

For Scotland, the findings are a particular concern as our young people read less for pleasure than the average 15-year-old in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development survey. Instead, they surf the net and post messages on Facebook, Bebo or the latest social messaging network - reading of a sort, but not exactly a broadening of their minds.

For it is in becoming absorbed in books that young people understand the meaning of words. That opens the door to everything else for them - maths, science and every other aspect of the curriculum.

There is strong evidence that reading for pleasure also creates adults who are more open-minded, civic-minded and engaged in their community. And at the risk of following Prime Minister David Cameron in search of the Holy Grail of the "Big Society", we need these qualities now, more than ever.

The conundrum is how to make reading a novel as addictive as playing an interactive computer game. The answer, of course, is to start young. But as Sue Ellis suggests (p5), an important element is to make reading an interactive activity for young people so that they egg each other on to read each other's favourite books - not the book the teacher tells them to read.

Time is not on our side, for many of the parents of today's pupils are more familiar with an Xbox than a book. And as some councils warn that it would be cheaper for them to hand out the books in their libraries than pay for the running costs and staffing of this vital public service, the writing may be on the wall.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine) 2009.

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