Sunday, November 30, 2008
Address to Labour Party Conference
1pm on Saturday Nov 29th
Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to announce the launch of the Right to Read Campaign as a Labour Party Campaign. It is now a key part of our campaign for the Local Elections in 2009.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our Education Spokesperson Ruairi Quinn and all other public representatives and members of the Labour Party who have supported the Right to Read Campaign from its inception.
Friends, we know that poverty is a thief. It steals childhoods, its steals happiness, its steals hope and it steals dreams. But we also know that the key to ending poverty is education and that literacy – being able to read – Is crucial in this regard. If our children are to have any chance at all we must give them the ability to read.
So why then in disadvantaged areas do over 30% of children have basic reading problems?
Why are almost a quarter of our adult population functionally illiterate?
Why are most of our young offenders unable to read their charge sheets, or in some cases, only able to sign their names with an 'x'?
The answer in part, lies with the education system. But children do not live in schools. Children live in communities, and it is our responsibility as public representatives, as councillors, as Labour members and as citizens to provide our communities with the power to end educational disadvantage and to help eradicate illiteracy. This is what the Right to Read Campaign is all about.
The Right to Read Campaign is a pragmatic, realistic and positive community response to our poor literacy rates.
We demand longer opening hours for libraries. A library should be a place of learning where young parents can get help so that they have the skill to read to their children.
We want homework clubs to be established in every community centre, in every library, in every council estate and flat complex to ensure that learning is delivered not just in the classroom but in the community.
We want decent housing standards, so that children have the space to learn in the home and to facilitate family learning.
It is to our Local authorities that we turn to, to make these changes. They must accept that they can make a positive difference in the lives of our children and that indeed that they are morally obliged to do so.
I am asking you all to log onto righttoread.ie and to lodge your support for what the Right to Read Campaign promises. I am asking each councillor, each candidate, each member and each voter to demand that every child be given the opportunity to read, yes in school, but also at home and in their own communities. We cannot wait for national government to make the changes in the education system that will give every child the chance to realise their potential. We all must use whatever influence we have to give hope to our children and their families so that they may be free from the fear that poverty will steal everything from them.
We have the power to make the difference at a local level. It's time to end disadvantage in our communities, it's time to eradicate illiteracy, it's time to give all our children the right to read.