Subscribing to Booktrust‘s facebook feeds has led me to many interesting articles and items of book news here in the UK (please can anyone out there in other countries send links to their news feeds about books from government organisations or book charities?). It was whilst perusing this feed earlier in the week that I came across this excellent blog post by the writer of some fantastic fiction for Young Adults, Bali Rai: please click here for details.
Bali wrote and addressed his blog post specifically to the young people for whom he writes, defending the printed word and extolling the many virtues of reading for pleasure. His blog post is entitled: ‘Reading for pleasure is vital’. He tells us “I’ve grown tired of hearing from commentators talking about the death of the book… I’ve also made it my mission to get you reading. All of this comes from a single belief, one that many of my fellow authors also hold. You see if our country is going to grow and prosper we need to invest in our future – invest in YOU. That means we must ensure that all young people are given the chance to fulfill their potential. Books and libraries, therefore, have a vital role to play.”
Playwright Alan Bennett has been quoted as saying ‘Closing a public library is child abuse really because it hinders child development.’
This, of course, is music to our ears as librarians, and it reinforces what we are trying to do within our school. We hear so much evidence that reading enables us to progress and grow as individuals, and whilst this may be self-explanatory, it is so easily forgotten as we rush through our busy lives. It is quite shocking that we have students coming to us saying that there are not many books at home and reading doesn’t feature as a regular activity, even in the fortunate environment we find ourselves part of. I have witnessed first hand the evident benefits of children reading for pleasure: I am constantly amazed by the vocabulary used by my own children and thereby showing their understanding of the world through having plenty of books and reading matter around the house. My eldest child began with joining Bookstart as a baby, followed later by her sister and both have participated in the Summer Reading Challenges over the years. Regular visits to public libraries and bookshops have inspired a lifelong (so far!) enjoyment in reading which has undoubtedly informed their opinions and broadened their horizons. Both enjoy the physical feel of a book in their hands, but they are embracing the ebook as well. I also see this pleasure and enjoyment amongst many of our students, but still, some do not respond. My eldest daughter is sometimes astonished that some of her friends do not read for pleasure, and cannot understand why they don’t.
I was lucky enough to attend a conference on reading for pleasure at the beginning of the school holidays, where one of the sessions was led by Bali Rai. He introduced four current secondary school students by asking them to tell us what they enjoy reading and why, whether they felt supported by their school library and whether their particular librarians provided them with what they need. Bali believes this approach is the best way forward in providing a valuable service for our young people, and indeed, I found that we already do much of what was suggested and discussed. Our students frequently request certain titles and these titles are often borrowed by others, and we hope to involve them in any future plans we may have to improve our library space. If we consult our young people, then we are more likely to appeal to others amongst them and encourage their participation in library activities. It would be wonderful to hear from as many school and community librarians on this subject, so please, get in touch and let us know about your successes (and things that didn’t work, too!). We look forward to hearing from you.