Dear Damian Hinds, What’s so difficult about giving every child a library ticket?

Yet again a report has come out showing that children who have books to read outside of school are well equipped to access education. The study, published in the journal Social Science Research, shows children with access to more books developed a direct positive relationship with literacy, numeracy and even IT skills in later years. Michael Rosen, children’s poet and author writes in The Guardian.

You know this already, though, because it says so in Reading: the Next Steps, [pdf] produced by your very own department in 2015.

In one of several encounters I’ve had with ministers in your department, I provided them with another study, from the US, proving the value of reading for pleasure. I suggested that since the NHS, libraries and schools are public institutions, it would be simple for children to be issued with library tickets at birth, or else on entry to school. I pointed out that it was within the power of the Department for Education to adapt a technique it used several years before with the Language in the National Curriculum project.

In 2011, Ofsted, the inspectorate, produced a report, Moving English Forward, [pdf] stating that every school should develop a policy on reading for enjoyment for every pupil. I was so delighted I helped organise a summit for all the voluntary bodies involved, so we could give the last push over the line on this, using Ofsted’s statement as the justification.

I did it in the naive assumption that the matter was now beyond dispute and a new movement would burgeon, drawing in and uniting the library service with schools, the health service, Booktrust, the Reading Agency, the National Literacy Trust, the voluntary reading organisations such as Beanstalk, the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, the National Association of Writers in Education, the National Association for the Teaching of English, the United Kingdom Literacy Association, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, the Education Media Centre, the English Association, the Royal Society of Literature, the Children’s Bookshow, the education and children’s literature departments in universities, authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, and the many agencies who put writers and books into schools.

The reason I’ve listed them, Mr Hinds, is to remind you of their existence but also because it is within your powers to convene a national conference of all these bodies, tasked with producing an agreed set of guidelines on children’s reading for pleasure.

Instead what do we have? Reading: the Next Steps contains a handful of clauses. The most laughable of these says: “The government would like all children to be active members of a public library and we are asking all schools to arrange library membership for all year 3 pupils”.

Haven’t you and your minister Nick Gibb noticed: lately the library service has been decimated? Then, with what’s left of libraries, instead of putting a library ticket into every child’s hand, you say limply “we are asking …”.

Read the full article Dear Damian Hinds, What’s so difficult about giving every child a library ticket?

Does your school use the local library… if there still is one? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Anonymous

    How naive. Giving a child a library ticket will not mean that the child goes to the library. Drag…. horse…. water…. drink.

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