School libraries

How can we make sure that tomorrow's readers have access to books and the support to explore them today?

I find it fascinating that for example school libraries in this country are not mandatory but a library in prison is. We should have libraries in every school. Libraries in a lot of schools are disappearing, school librarians are disappearing. We can talk about literacy but if it’s not backed up by a school library where you can go and get into that reading habit, it’s just talk.

Malorie Blackman

Drastic library cuts are happening throughout schools in the UK. These cuts will mean fewer pupils have access to books, either because of underfunding of hours and staff or through loss of stock. Sometimes the access they do have is inadequate. A library also needs a trained librarian, and in too many schools their hours are being reduced or eliminated altogether.

Children who are becoming readers need to read widely, and in quantity. They need to be guided by a trained librarian and also to enjoy it. This will not be possible where cuts are impacting on librarian hours and on library stock. These cuts especially affect children who have limited or no access to books at home or through public libraries, and so widen the gap between the best and the least 'well-educated' and 'well-read'. This gap will be mirrored in their wellbeing, mental health and economic success.

Our campaign focuses on the importance of the library as the heart of the school, and the importance of the role of a trained librarian in guiding end encouraging children’s reading, both in order to improve reading proficiency in in order to grow children’s confidence in and love of reading. We believe that children who are keen, wide readers have a far greater chance of being successful, well-rounded individuals in later life.

We do not see Information Technology provision as something which replaces a well-stocked library, but rather as something which enhances it. Also, in the age of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, children need to know how to question, to research and seek out well-documented evidence to support assertions. A librarian is vital to their learning of these skills.

What are we doing?

We want school staff, governors, Ofsted, students and parents to recognise the importance of a thriving school library. We are lobbying for this on many fronts.

The Society of Authors calls on the Government to set out a new national strategy for school libraries which recognises the vital role of high quality school libraries in supporting pupils’ literacy, research skills and reading for pleasure.

We are promoting reading for pleasure as an essential and enjoyable experience which can have many positive effects, and we are emphasising the vital role of trained library staff in this experience. To this end we are working with organisations such as CILIP, the Reading Agency, the SLA and EmpathyLab to spread the word about the power of reading for pleasure.

We are going to be celebrating excellent school library provision where we find it and helping parents, staff, governors and senior management teams understand the crucial role that school libraries play in boosting reading skill and enjoyment.

What can you do?

  • Support your local school library, if they have one. Donate them a copy of your latest book if you can afford to do so.
  • If you do school visits, work with the librarian and see if your visit can be focused around the library. Encourage children to come into the library to meet you if possible – maybe in an informal ‘drop-in’/chat session separate from any more formal workshop or talk which you do?
  • Praise librarians for the hard work they do. After a school visit, write or email to thank the librarian, and tell Senior Management how essential you think they are to the children’s enjoyment of reading.
  • Become a school’s Patron of Reading. A Patron is an author who works with a particular school over a long period of time, developing a relationship with that school helping the school to foster a reading culture. Find out more at www.patronofreading.co.uk.

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