As both a primary school teacher and a mum, I’ve witnessed first-hand the positive impact reading for pleasure has on children’s well-being and achievement. I wasn’t surprised, therefore, to discover evidence in this report, produced today by the National Literacy Trust, that children who read for pleasure have better life chances, get better grades and report higher levels of wellbeing.
What I was shocked by, however, was the fact that in many areas of the UK, one in four primary schools don’t have a school library, and that two in five lack the budget to buy new books.
How do the children at these schools access books they can read for pleasure?
And I mean properly read for the sheer pleasure of getting lost in an adventure, being transported to another world, connecting with a character so much that they can’t wait to discover what happens next. Where do these children find books they can see themselves in? How do they experience the real magic of reading that is lacking from many prescribed reading schemes?
Having thought about this, I’ve come up with the following possibilities:
- Their local public library
BUT not all neighbourhoods have a library. And, even if they do, not all parents/guardians choose to take advantage of these wonderful free resources staffed by knowledgeable professionals on hand to help. (I take one or more of my children to our local library weekly, but we’re often the only patrons there.)
- Their parents/guardians buy them books
BUT not many families can afford to do this regularly, especially those living in the areas cited as not having a school library.
- Their teachers buy new books with their own personal funds.
As wonderful as regularly forking out for books for your pupils is (I’ve been there), this is not a solution for the masses.
So I guess the question becomes, if a school doesn’t have a well-stocked library, curated by an educator who is afforded the time to keep abreast of new, diverse, inclusive, exciting books, where do children whose parents/guardians can’t/don’t take advantage of public libraries, and can’t afford to buy books, get the opportunity to experience the pleasure of reading?
In hope, the report published today will highlight to the government the long-term benefits of proper investment in primary school libraries so that ALL children have the opportunity to reap the benefits of reading for pleasure.
PS If you’re reading this and you work at a school in the Black Country, Newham, Barking, Dagenham, Thurrock, Basildon, Harlow, Braintree Stockton-on-Tees, Gateshead, Redcar, Cleveland, Swindon or Blackpool, do check out this offer from my publisher, Puffin, who are currently recruiting schools for their World of Stories programme which equips schools with resources to help champion reading for pleasure (including 500 free books, training for library co-ordinators and National Literacy Trust membership).