Author Tony Parsons has joined the Duchess of Cornwall to demand an end to the “cultural apartheid” of adult illiteracy.
He said the one in five adults who is unable to read often results from parents failing to read to their children which he said was “criminal” and like “sending your child to school with no shoes”.
The author of Man and Boy, who joined Camilla at a reading class for Transport for London staff, is one of several novelists to write an easy-to-read short book – Beyond the Bounty – as part of the Quick Reads scheme, an initiative for adults who have difficulty reading.
Parsons told the Standard: “It’s a national tragedy the number of children that never read.
“To me, that is the greatest shocking statistic of all – the number of children never read to. It’s criminal.
“I don’t think it’s a campaign that can ever end in my lifetime, but it’s a campaign that we can be winning. This is the country of Dickens and Graham Greene. The idea that there may be millions of adults who never open a book is terrible. It’s cultural apartheid – you have got the smart, happy people reading books and these other people who are not given a chance.”
The Duchess, who reads to her grandchildren and is patron of four literacy charities, condemned the way schools used to discard pupils whose dyslexia went undiscovered.
She said: “Twenty years ago, you were put into a class and you were just deemed as being thick. Nobody realised about dyslexia. You were downgraded and downgraded. So many people are dyslexic in one form or another.”
She added: “My father read to me. My children read to their children. You can’t beat it.”
This is London
17 February 2012