- Many children do not have access to books
- Lack of funding
- What makes a good library?
- Why are school libraries important?
Reading the recent report by the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK has probably got many parents questioning the state of their child’s school library. The report highlights some shocking statistics which suggest that school libraries have been neglected to the point of disappearance.
We at GoStudent know the importance and value of a well-stocked and well-managed library in a school. Read more about the current state of primary school libraries in the UK.
Many children do not have access to books
The 36-page report by the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK begins by emphasising that there is no government requirement for schools to have a library and that a quarter of disadvantaged primary schools in England do not currently have one.
As well as this, one in eight primary schools – irrespective of their financial situation – do not have a library. These facts alone will probably surprise and shock many parents who understand the value that a school library can have in inspiring curiosity and engaging children with the wonderful world of books.
After all, we all want to see children reading!
To make matters worse, one in eleven children in the UK have no access to books at home. This means that there are thousands of children in the UK who – if their families do not take them to a public library – have no access to books until they are old enough to go to a public library on their own. They don’t even have the ability to go and look at the covers, let alone actually engage with the stories.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this will have a significant impact on their ability to develop their literacy and reading skills – not to mention the emotional development which comes hand in hand with being exposed to books, their characters, and their stories. Books also teach children how to learn phonics.
There is not enough funding for inclusive and representative books in British school libraries
The report also claims that 40% of schools have no dedicated budget for library services. It also reports that library books are often charity shop purchases which teachers have bought with their own money or old books that people have donated.
This chronic lack of funding means that instead of reading the most recent books, school libraries are often stocked with crummy, yellow-paged books which are covered with ancient pencil markings, missing pages and often lacking any sort of colour or character. It is not just about having books – it is about having the right books.
The lack of funding often means that books in libraries lack diversity. Older books have a history of presenting predominantly white male protagonists and outdated and even malicious representations of ethnic minorities.
There is a huge drive for inclusion in modern schools and a lack of diversity and representation in library books can be a huge barrier to teaching children of minority backgrounds that they are included and welcome in British society.
As well as this, it is important for cis white hetero British children to see diversity and inclusion in the books that they read in order to develop their understanding of the world they live in and the people that they share it with.
What makes a good library?
The findings of the report should get us all asking ourselves: should the government be funding school libraries? School libraries are incredibly important and should be freely accessible to all students – irrespective of their post code or financial situation at home.
The report defines a library as being ‘a designated area that provides access to a curated collection of resources to benefit pupils’ learning and development and is separate to a classroom or other shared space’.
According to the report, a good school library needs:
A wide range of inclusive and representative books
An engaging and creative space
To sit at the heart of the wider school community
Why are school libraries important?
For many children, a school library is the gateway to creativity, joy, and learning. Without a properly funded library, countless children are denied the equal learning opportunities that those with libraries can offer. As well as teaching children the basic knowledge that they need to pass assessments, schools should be teaching children to embrace a culture of learning – a culture that is very difficult to teach without a properly stocked and managed library.
Here is a list of some of the benefits that libraries can offer students:
Libraries encourage reading which can improve a child’s general academic attainment
Libraries and books are often a source of pleasure and joy – something which many children need after the trauma of the pandemic
A library can be a quiet refuge for calm and quiet study which lots of children do not get at home or elsewhere
A library space is often the heart of a school community
Libraries are incredibly important for individual students as well as the wider school community and it is a tragedy that school libraries in the UK are underfunded and neglected in a way which denies children access to books and further widens the cultural poverty gap.