SOMETIMES something so blindingly obvious is stated in public that it takes your breath away. Such a moment happened last week.

It was a news item, generally hidden away and scarcely worthy of national headlines, stating that research by the National Literacy Trust showed that growing up in areas with poor literacy rates meant a dramatically shorter life expectancy.

In boys, this was by 26 years. Yes, that does read years.

The Trust used factors like education, employment and income before splitting geographical areas into groups, ranging from the 10th most at risk of literacy problems to the 10th least at risk. This was all then compared with official data on life expectancy.

It revealed that, for example, a boy born in the Stockton Town Centre ward had a life expectancy 26.1 years shorter than a boy born in the North Oxford ward. For girls, the same sort of gap was around 20.9 years – slightly better but still shocking.

Stated the Trust: “Whilst we recognise that the relationship between literacy and life expectancy is complex, our report finds that people with low levels of literacy are more likely to live in deprived communities, be financially worse off and have poorer health – all of which are precursors for shorter life spans.”

They believe this makes the closing of the literacy gap between communities more urgent than ever. And they’re absolutely right.

Simply put, being able to read and write properly is not just the key to doing better at school, it’s the key to almost everything in life.

Without that decent start, few boys and girls can expect to get good jobs because they can’t get the right kind of education. It can run through generations of families, giving children consistently low general expectations.

It doesn’t happen in every family and some youngsters with a poor education can go on to do well. But it’s definitely a much tougher road that good literacy can smooth.

Now, to learn of such a massive discrepancy in life expectation makes the situation far more serious in practical terms. It also means that organisations like the Trust are having to improve their efforts to get more children from the poorest communities reading and writing.

Although it’s true that education starts at home, it really is up to us all to change these worrying figures and ensure our children have better - and longer - lives.