Arts > Can books help tackle knife crime?

Posted on April 27, 2016

Alex Wheatle

Michee Ngaka explores why author Alex Wheatle believes reading can help us to have empathy
Award-winning author Alex Wheatle stated in an article for The Guardian that he believes reading children’s books can help tackle knife crime. This was in response to the recent stabbing of Myron Yarde, a 17-year-old musician from south London. Wheatle feels very strongly about knife crime especially with regards to young people.

Wheatle spent most of his childhood in a Shirley Oak children’s home. At the age of 18 he was involved in the Brixton riots in 1981 and was sentenced to prison. Since then, Wheatle has been committed, inspired and motivated to produce books that can influence and benefit people.

“I am perpetually asked what can be done to address the problems of knife crime and how to challenge the mind-sets of those young individuals who inflict such devastating trauma on families.”

Wheatle encourages young people to not just read to develop their grammar, vocabulary skills or sentence structure, but believes reading can promote empathy, compassion and understanding of others.

He also feels that society can do more to help tackle knife crime, such as publishing more fiction books that relates and helps explore issues and concerns young people are facing.

“I would also encourage debates with pupils about the choices and moral decisions that young characters make in fiction and discuss the consequences and fallout from flawed decision making. I understand that teachers are not social workers or counsellors but many of our children need to form a moral compass for themselves because many do not find it at home – it’s an uncomfortable truth. Healthy reading can assist in that development.”

What I think
I feel that knife crime in London is becoming even more of a problem and uncomfortable for many people. Knowing that the amount of youths who are killed from knife crime rises each year is an issue. In the past I have experienced the fatal consequences of knife crime with school friends that I grew up with. It hurt and terrorised my self-esteem.

Exposure previously interviewed Alex Wheatle, as part of our I’m Inspired project.

Michee Ngaka
Michee Ngaka is an aspiring and creative filmmaker. He enjoys editing short films and planning pre productions for documentaries. His ambition and motivation is to one day participate in a short film with Exposure that can help society.


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4 Responses to Can books help tackle knife crime?

  1. Shakira May 11, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    Films… books… all contain messages that are seen by many people and therefore can change people’s minds… or the world…

    Books that give that idea to help solve real social problems – they’re the best type I feel.

  2. Mualla October 25, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    I really loved the way he thinks that books could create better generations, I absolutely agree with his points. Books give us a lot of knowledge.

  3. Susana Mariz January 16, 2017 at 2:38 pm #


  4. nyron March 13, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

    i wont agree 100% but i think this is a good idea as well but books cant prevent knife crime unless it relates to the situation, also youths that do knife crime they wouldn’t really go to a any places and get a book.

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