Friday, 21 September 2012

School libraries and librarians- essential for our children and society.

That is what we are all about, us writers!
  On Awfully Big Blog Adventure we talk about and write books so that children young and old can read them.  There is nothing more unhappy than a book without anyone to read it. We all know that children have to learn the skill that is reading so that they can discover the joy of losing themselves in a book, the delight of living new experiences through the characters in their favourite books.  
We writers like to think that all parents will encourage this by spending time reading to their children, many do and there are agencies like Bookstart and BookBug who deliver books into the hands of every new parent and child.  But as children grow up things change and we all know that life is not always the way we would like it to be, so we need our schools not only to help children learn the skill of reading but to find joy and delight in a broad range of books, to help them to become enthusiastic readers.
We have heard about how public libraries are under threat of closure or cuts in John Dougherty's excellent but depressing post A Death in the Library  but at a time like this we need to make sure we recognise how important our school libraries are, and encourage those excellent people the School Librarians.
 I visit a lot of schools and it is often an enthusiastic and hard working school librarian who will invite me to speak.  They understand how an author visiting a school and speaking passionately about what they write can infect students with their enthusiasm and on occasion can be the trigger that switches some children on to reading.  Finding the right book for the right child, the book that helps that child discover there is something in books for them, is something that can change lives. 
Books that deal with difficult subjects in a fictional setting can provide an opportunity to experience emotions, to dip into the dangerous side of life in a safe way. Teenagers need to push against authority and against the rules but reading and taking that journey with characters they believe in, can allow them an opportunity to see what might happen if they tried this in real life - raising questions they might never have asked themselves about the consequences of their actions. Books can be powerful in changing ideas and raising discussions that might never otherwise come about.
Going to borrow books from the public library works for some children but there will always be those who will never go to the library, but they all go to school.
With some of the Teen Title Reviewers
Authors at Teen Titles event
In Edinburgh some reading groups review teenage books for the excellent magazine Teen Titles  Have a look on the website (link below) and check out a copy. This would not succeed without the efforts of the school librarians.  Every year the lovely people at Teen Titles host a gathering and invite the young reviewers along to meet some of the YA authors who are in Edinburgh for the Book Festival . It is always great to meet these enthusiastic teenagers and their school librarians.  I was joined there this year by fellow authors Teresa Flavin, Kate Harrison, Jane McLoughlin and Elizabeth Wein, Roy Gill, Keith Gray and John Fardell. Have a look at a copy of Teen titles here  Teen Titles
 Book prizes, particularly those judged by teenagers, is another way school librarians keep them reading.  The excitement raised by these events keeps the students reading and introduces them to a wide variety of books, allowing them also the opportunity to  get involved and have a say.
Catalyst Book Awards
Red Book Awards


  The Kids Lit Quiz  brings together teams of young readers from schools up and down the country to compete in a book related quiz, with the winning teams playing in a national final and having the chance to travel, sometimes as far as New Zealand to play in the world final against teams from all over the world. Often at the KLQ there are teams of authors and teams of school librarians who play alongside the school teams. Everyone has a lot of fun, many win prizes of books, too. The school librarians encourage their school teams to read and answer questions, and to take part in the quiz.   
 School librarians are specialists who as shown above do so much to encourage our young people.  School libraries are essential and should be at the heart of the school, and school librarians must be valued for the great work they do, especially in these days of poor literacy.
Encourage a person to read and you give them the world. Our children deserve no less.
 Please leave a comment if you want to support school libraries and school librarians. Come along if you can, to make your voice heard or join the facebook pages below.
There will be a Mass Lobby for School libraries in London and in Edinburgh   
On Monday 29 October- Houses of Parliament, in London   
On  Saturday 27th October at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh
A quote from the facebook page for   -Mass Lobby for School Libraries
'For many children the only way they'll access a public library is if their parents take them. And if the parents don't have the time, don't see the value of books and libraries, cannot afford (or don't want to spend) the bus fare getting to the library, then their children will not have equal access. Add to that the "uncoolness" of going to the library and you can see why many teenagers last visited their public library when they were 5 years of age! 
 This isn't true of a school library. ALL students have equal access and if library lessons and reading for pleasure are part of the curriculum, then there's less stigma attached. It's easier to read if it's expected of you and everyone else is doing it!'
And quote from the  facebook page for  School Library Lobby Scotland
'We believe that access to quality school library provision, including a specialist school librarian, supports children and young people's learning and achievement across the curriculum. We encourage HM Inspectors to reflect on the impact of the school library during their inspection and encourage the Scottish Parliament and local authorities to recognise the importance of the school library in developing lifelong learning skills in our children and young people. 
Linda Strachan is the award winning author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage/ YA novels and a  writing handbook Writing For Children
Her latest novel is Don't Judge Me-  published by Strident October 2012


Karen said...

Great post, Linda. School libraries are so important, as you say not every child will go to a library but they all go to school. I've met some lovely librarians when visiting schools who've shown tremendous dedication to encouraging the children to read.

Joan Lennon said...

Libraries/librarians - a measure of our civilisation.

Sue Purkiss said...

I think it's a really excellent point that not all children visit public libraries, but they all go to school - ridiculously, it hadn't occurred to me before. I remember going to a recently refurbished primary school library in Bristol a few years ago - it was fantastic, with bright colours, murals by the children, inviting areas to set down - it just made you want to curl up with a book. All schools should have them - and the librarians to make them work.

Penny Dolan said...

Well said - and a good explanation of why they matter.

As the local public library may not be easy to reach, especially given the distances children do travel to secondary school and/or have limited hours and stock as well, so the school library and the library staff should grow even more important.

Emma Barnes said...

Hear, hear.

And in primary schools, in England anyway (most of the schools I visit are in England)there is often no library or designated librarian. And primary age children are even less able to get to the public library under their own steam than secondary children, and arguably it's even more crucial that they get that reading habit!

The Society of Authors is running a campaign about this also - hope it has some results.

madwippitt said...

There is one thing more unhapopy than a book without a reader Linda - and thats a child who wants to read, without a book! Hence the importance of libraries. I used to live in ours: I'd have been desolate without it.

Linda Strachan said...

Karen - I agree there are some lovely librarians with true dedication to getting kids and books together

So right, Joan.

Sue It is wonderful when libraries are lovely places the kids want to be in, and welcoming. I have also been in primary schools, as Emma mentions, where they have little or no library as if it was not important.

As you say, Penny many primary school children cannot get to a library and if the parents are not willing, interested or able to take them it is more difficult to get them into a reading habit.
Madwippit I agree about a child without a book.... I too spent many happy hours as a child in my local library

Penny Dolan said...

Linda, agree with what you say about there being no librarian in many primary schools, although often a teacher or parent takes on that responsibilty.

However, I'm also thinking of the additional hours many secondary children travel each day by school bus, train or car especially if they are in a rural location. And they have to fit in homework on top of that.

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very good post

adele said...

Thank you for this excellent post. Of course school librarians are necessary. I do hope the Govt listens to all the lobbying. Wish I could come to Westminster day but am busy, alas. Good luck to all.