WE’RE all readers, right? That’s why you and I are all here, after all. Pure word greed. No? But are younger readers following in our foot(note) steps?* Possibly not, according to some of the evidence gathered for this week’s Analysis on Radio 4 on Monday night.

Presented by children’s author Julia Donaldson, the programme revealed that one in 10 households don’t have any books in them at all.

One in seven schools, meanwhile, don’t have a library and, possibly even more depressingly, seven in 10 primary school libraries don’t have designated staff.

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Worst of all, children eligible for free school meals are the least likely to have access to a school library.

So much, Donaldson noted, for levelling up.

All of this is frankly perverse, especially given that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has found that reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor in how well a child does in life.

“I’m pretty sure that what reading as a child gave to me was a kind of map of the small pleasures in life,” children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce told Donaldson.

“The things that get you through really difficult times. For instance, I remember really clearly Toad in jail in The Wind in the Willows and the jailer’s daughter brings him hot buttered toast. And that adds value to every piece of hot buttered toast I’ve ever had. So it’s that incremental building of the machine of happiness inside you.”

Books are also empathy machines. A good book, Cottrell Boyce added, “breaks you out of the prison of yourself”. (Another reminder that writers always give the best quotes.) And yet we are currently a country where surveys suggest that reading for pleasure is at its lowest level for 18 years as kids turn to social media. Snapchat and TikTok are taking over.

But it’s not a simple case of books good, digital bad. To be honest I hadn’t really heard of BookTok before author Jenny Colgan told me about it last week but it seems it is having a huge impact in encouraging teenage readers, according to Donaldson.

As for old-school media – TV, radio, the newspaper you are reading – Donaldson had some hard words to say about our lack of interest in covering children’s literature. Especially given the fact that it’s one of the things the UK is really, really good at.

“We are to children’s writing what Brazil is to football,” Cottrell Boyce suggested. You can come up with your own suggestions for who is our Pele.

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There’s more to life than books, you know, but not much more, as one of my former heroes once sang. I’ve a more complicated relationship with Morrissey these days, but that question of separating the art from the artist arose on Open Book on Radio 4 last Sunday.

It was the novelist Teju Cole who addressed the question of how we interact with artists whose views we can’t endorse. “Degas is one of my favourite painters,” he admitted. “An enthusiastic misogynist, an intent anti-Semite. Not much to like about the man personally.”

Even so, he said: “You stand in front of the paintings and you are still thinking with him.”

It’s a choice, in other words. “We are grown-ups. We can decide to do that work,” Cole argued. “We’re also grown-ups who can say, ‘You know what? That’s a bit too much for me. Not a fan. Not going to do it.’ “But leaving the question completely out of the room feels to me a wilful impoverishment of our experiences.”

Cole was another writer who turned out to be very quotable. “Not only is life more difficult than we know, it is more difficult than we can know,” he suggested at one point. “And yet beyond that we have to live.”

We do. So, pardon me, I’m off to the library to find a book to read while I listen to Meat is Murder.

* I can only apologise.

Listen out for The Kitchen Cabinet, Radio 4, today, 10.30am
Jay Rayner’s culinary panel show returns for a new series with the first episode coming from Glasgow this morning. Fliss Freeborn, Rachel McCormack, Sumaya Usmani and Dr Annie Gray answer questions from the audience.