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Children reading a book

Today New Directions Educations is celebrating the 206th birthday of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens was one of the greatest literary artists of the 19thcentury and is still beloved today by many.

Charles Dickens was born Charles John Huffam Dickens on February 7th 1812, in Portsmouth, on the south coast of England. At just 12 years old Charles’s dad was sent to prison for unpaid debts and Charles was sent to work in a boot-blacking factory.

Charles worked here until his father came into some inheritance and was able to pay off his debts and Charles was able to go back to school. However at the age of 15 Dickens was sent to work again to help out the family, this time he was lucky enough to work as an office boy, which turned out to be the launching pad for his career.

In 1833, he began submitting sketches to various magazines and newspapers under the pseudonym “Boz.” In 1836, his clippings were published in his first book, Sketches by Boz.

Dickens would go on to publish 15 novels throughout his career and to this day, has created some of the world’s best loved characters from Oliver Twist, Scrooge in A Christmas Carol to David Copperfield.
Reading in the 19th Century to now

Dickens was born in a time when education and reading were rare. Education was a privilege to the rich and many went their whole lives never reading a single book, illiterate. Most poor children had to work if they went to school their families lost the money they earned.  Only richer families could afford the school fees, though some schools did offer free places to poor boys. Poor girls did not get the same opportunity.

Fortunately for children today, there are many initiatives to encourage reading in schools from an early age. In Scotland they have the Bookbug scheme which provides free books to every child from birth to the first year of primary school.

The Summer Reading Challenge was recently launched across Wales to motivate children aged 4-11 to read six books during the longs summer holiday. The Summer Reading Challenge is open to all primary school aged children and is designed for all reading abilities. Schools work with local libraries and give out information to encourage children to take part, and most libraries run Summer Reading Challenge linked early year’s activity for pre-schoolers.

These are just a couple of examples of how schools, across the UK, today are invested in children reading from a young age and continuing into adulthood. Here at New Directions we love a book and hope you celebrate Charles Dickens birthday with us by transporting yourselves into your next literary adventure!