A guest post from children’s librarian Chris Fitt, giving a summary of (and reactions to!) last week’s You & Yours broadcast, and information about the current situation in education:
The overwhelming impression gained from the ‘You & Yours’ programme today was how passionately Joe Public believes in his/her public library service. According to the production team, only 2 emails out of a few hundred spoke against libraries.
There were 2 speakers in the studio – Annie Mauger, Chief Exec of CILIP, who was passionate, patient & concise in her arguments, and a chap whose name escapes me ‘cos I was so busy spluttering at his inane, pompous comments that his name passed me by! Who the hell was he?
Whoever he was, he doesn’t appear to appreciate just how centrally important libraries can be to their local community & just pooh-poohed their value in the little matter of teaching children to read. Schools can do all that, so he thought putting extra resources into schools may be good…
Pardon me, Buster, what public libraries do that is so crucial to children’s reading is take reading OUT of the classroom, thereby encouraging young readers to discover the enjoyment that can be found inside books. Children need to discover that reading can be fun, enjoyable, interesting. But if they only associate reading with school (with its associated unpleasant connections), they become the proverbial ‘reluctant readers’ so often targeted by governments, often unable in later life to grasp even simple concepts found in the realms of books, magazines, media, internet, work, children’s schooling, etc. etc.
It is now recognised and accepted among educators that they MUST encourage the wonderful, liberating art of Reading for Pleasure, or face the literacy-related consequences later down the line. Those of us who love reading find it a simple activity. Some of this fortunate number – like this idiot on the radio, and Doncaster’s Mayor – seem to forget or ignore the fact that this is not the case for everybody in this country.
It is reading because they WANT to – not because the teacher says so – that develops children and young people into skilful readers. And with 1 in 4 children in the UK not possessing a book of their own, access to a free public library is often the only way many will get chance to read books not provided by a school’s limited resources.
Recent National Literacy Trust research demonstrates the clear link between reading skills and library use, something librarians have known for decades.
Back to the programme …
The patronising comment “Buy all the poor people a Kindle…” was utterly disgraceful! And “…send Granny a SD card every week, so she can choose her books” sent me into paroxysms of spluttering rage! And the tired, oft-trotted out phrase “Books are readily affordable by everybody these days” just makes my blood boil!
One lady who phoned in gave her own case – she and her family visit the library every week & borrow 20 books between them. She is not what you would call ‘poor’ but would most certainly NOT be able to buy 20 books per week.
Large print books are not available to buy in shops, and only limited availability online – but at a, sometimes considerable, cost. The same goes for audio books. Thousands of people rely on this kind of material. What are they supposed to do? Those with the personal funds may well enjoy the benefits of a Kindle or MP3 player, but this will not be an option for everyone.
Doncaster is set to see vast educational wastelands open up in places such as Rossington and Stainforth, unless vision is brought into play within the Council. Somehow I doubt that this will happen, especially as the Mayor boasted last week that he had never borrowed a book from a library in his life and that he viewed scrapping a totally disproportionate number of community libraries as ‘the least problematical option’.
Some of Doncaster’s problems haven’t even begun…