Support for the School Library campaign

Posted by rsl11 at Apr 23, 2021 12:14 PM |
The EA joins with NATE, NAAE and the Ideas Foundation to endorse the School Library Campaign

The educational charities above with an interest in education and creativity are pleased to endorse the timely and forceful campaign led by Cressida Cowell and others requesting government support for a three-year annual ring-fenced investment of £100m to rescue and develop library provision in primary schools.

NATE, EA, IF and NAAE consider that this investment should be a part of the specifically post-pandemic educational recovery but is even more necessary because of the pre-pandemic reduction in school library facilities, purchasing and staffing. As Cressida Cowell has said, “the 2019, Great School Libraries report found a lack of space, resource and expertise, and that libraries were deteriorating. Whilst every prison has a statutory library, one in eight primary schools has no library space at all.”

Reading for pleasure leads to imaginative, creative and reflective links between thought and feeling. What is at stake is more than curriculum literacy. The provision of fiction to stimulate reading for pleasure is more than support for recognising word classes, phonic regularities and clause mobility. Books provide a window into the world around, and into the world within the growing child. Imaginative exposure to people, places and events in fiction develops understanding, tolerance and empathy – key components of personal development and responsible citizenship. The equal access to people, places and events beyond the reader’s own social and cultural corral opens up equality of ambition and cultural mobility. Given that schools with a higher proportion of children on free school meals are more than twice as likely not to have access to a designated library space, there can be no more immediate and focused a case  for a “levelling-up” policy to make attractive, engaging books the means to children’s sense of possibility and opportunity. Social considerations of “left-behind” communities and “disadvantage” need to be aligned with our knowledge that  “reading for pleasure is a bigger indicator of a child’s educational success than their parents’ socio-economic status.” Hence the precedent of direct allocation of ring-fenced PE and sport premium should be even more relevant when the outcome is intellectual, emotional and cultural healthy growth.

Our educational charities urge a Government commitment to funding not only the dedicated library space in a school, but its regular stocking with appealing visual and verbal material, but also the staffing with a knowledgeable librarian. Peter Thomas, past Chair of NATE commented:


“As a teacher trainer visiting students on school practice placements, one of my joys and professional knowledge boosts was talking to an enthusiastic librarian who could give several reasons for recommending a book and tempting the reader with snippets. Librarians usually know more about past and contemporary fiction for young people than anyone else, and can be the uniquely effective bridge to the fiction reading that is a right and a privilege of all. “

 

Mick Connell, NATE’s Secretary, reports:

“I recall as an LEA English Adviser that the schools that produced the best English outcomes at Key Stage 2 were often those that, regardless or in spite of their socio-economic circumstances, were prepared to make a 'big thing' of reading and book provision, especially of fiction, for their children. A reading regime restricted to phonics, identifying grammatical items, supported by artificial reading strategies, worksheets and testing may produce technically functional but reluctant readers. And reading reluctance will, for many children, lead to reading neglect or reading refusal.”

 

Heather MacRae, Managing Director if the Ideas Foundation, said:

“I can still remember the names of my school librarian.  Miss McNamara and the first book I borrowed about Dalmations and fire engines.  Libraries and books are so important!”

 

NATE, EA, IF and NAAE regard this stimulus to reading for pleasure as a greater priority for primary-age children which will be a foundation for later educational and life success. To ignore the Campaign’s urgent call is to condone a closing down of cultural opportunity.

Peter Thomas, pp NATE Trustees & Devpt team

Rachel Roberts, Chair, NATE

Rob Penman, Chair EA

Ruth Baker-Leask, Chair, NAAE

Heather MacRae, Managing Director, IF

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