What Children Won't Learn from Books

Before we get into the main thrust of this article let's make one thing clear - books are an invaluable part of our lives, and the lives and education of our children. That's beyond dispute, and many of us are still reeling from a recent report by the National Literacy Trust - covered here by the Telegraph - that four million kids in the UK don't own a single book. A single book. Words such as 'appalling' and 'frightening' are not misplaced when discussing this issue.

While the benefits of reading are clear, in the classroom not everything can be learnt from the pages of a textbook. There are other fundamental life skills and academic lessons children won't learn from books; let's look at some of these now.

The importance of physical exercise

There's a reason PE is compulsory in schools, so make 'forgotten kit' notes a thing of the past. The UK government recognised this by creating a £150 million PE and sport premium - a fund which goes directly to head teachers to use as they choose. 'We want to create a world-class education system that gives children all the skills they need to succeed in modern Britain,' Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said. 'Literacy and numeracy are part of that but confidence, discipline and determination are equally important. Some of those things can be taught in the classroom but the lessons children learn while playing sport, such as the importance of teamwork and the satisfaction of achieving a goal, are invaluable.'

Well said.


At primary school, a pupil's introduction to science can be magical. In later education, weighty biology and physics textbooks come into play but nothing beats practical demonstrations to fire young minds and fill them with inspiration. Hope Education provide science resources, including an erupting volcano model from which pours 'lava'. The model can be cut in half to show a cross-section of the inside of the volcano, so pupils learn the inner workings - without a book in sight.

Foreign Languages

Some primary schools teach foreign languages - French, Spanish, German - to KS1 and KS2 pupils and studying books just won't penetrate young brains. Speaking and listening tools are perfect for helping kids to understand languages, and so too games and puzzles.

Computing and technology

Visit a primary school today and as you're likely to find a class engrossed in the world of website coding as poring over a good book. That's right - computing, programming and understanding the basics of search engines and debugging are all to be found in a KS1 and KS2 classroom near you. Let's face it, by the time they reach their teenage years, today's kids will be more comfortable with technology than their parents will ever be.


An important and oft-overlooked part of school life, the primary years of education is the time children learn the nuances of friendship. How to communicate and interact with others, how to share items, objects and toys, how to work with others - who may not be in their chosen 'friends group' - on a project, and so on. The focus on PSE - Personal and Social Education - is strong in primary schools, and rightly so.

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