Fascinating truths about reading which are all too easy to forget in our busy world…

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.


National Libraries Day in the UK: Saturday 4th February 2012

I had meant to write this post last Friday, 27th January, but in fact I was too busy in our school library!  I was busy because I was helping our students with their queries about using the computers effectively, searches for journal articles, book requests and ideas for a book to take home that evening.  In short, proving that we need libraries!

On Saturday 4th February 2012 we will be celebrating the first ever National Libraries Day here in the UK.  The day was established after we had seen the closure of so many public libraries over the past year, and a handful of those due for closure being handed over to be run by the communities fortunate enough to be able to support them through the goodness of volunteers willing to run them and raise extra funds to keep them going.  The purpose of National Libraries Day is to celebrate libraries and all that they represent and do for us as readers.

We all believe we know what libraries do but are you aware that not only do they do the things that one would expect, but also many library authorities offer  housebound residents the chance to borrow books in a range of formats and films on dvd and music on cd as well. They offer many free courses connected with computer literacy, career choices and cv workshops, provide a wealth of extra information about their locality (both for tourists and residents alike). They host many clubs across the age groups for readers in connection with The Reading Agency: starting with involvement in Bookstart for Babies, continuing with Chatterbooks for primary school children and onto reading groups and the exciting Groupthing and Headspace projects for older children and My Voice for older people.  Many library services provide reading group collections with books available to  privately run reading groups as well as hosting their own.

Library services are supported by so many authors who not only use their local libraries but also do readings, booksignings and talks.  Some library services have also provided bibliotherapy groups for their readers based on the model ‘Get into Reading’, established by The Reader Organisation, who have categorical evidence suggesting that involvement in one of their groups has improved adult literacy for  members of the community from differing social backgrounds as well as offered support for those who are lonely, elderly and sick.  Bibliotherapy has also been shown to assist school age children in these areas where other methods of support haven’t helped them, the library service takes this opportunity into the community in schools and community centres.

To find out more, please click here for redirection to the National Libraries Day website, and I hope that you become involved and enjoy the day!