How Can You Help Primary School Libraries?
Primary school libraries are in jeopardy. It may surprise you to learn that there is no government requirement for schools to have a library. Currently, one in eight primary schools in England do not have a library. This number jumps to one in four in schools where there is a higher proportion of children on free school meals. The state school system is meant to ensure free education for all – but there is no argument that some children are receiving much better education than others. Undoubtedly, not having a library in primary school seriously disadvantages children. Primary school is the foundation of learning. If your reading is set back in primary school, then that is going to snowball on to secondary school, and your future employment opportunities.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Reading…
Some people reading this make think that we’re being a little over dramatic. Perhaps, when you think of a bookish kid, you imagine them to grow up to be a writer or an English teacher. And not every kid wants to be a writer or an English teacher. Maybe your child excels at Maths or P.E, and reading does not seem all that important. But an appetite for reading benefits children in multiple ways.
Reading & Academia…
In 2013, a study found that those who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, spelling and vocabulary than those who did not. Reading is not just about reading for reading’s sake. Reading helps our overall communication and understanding. Being able to communicate and understand well is a vital skill for all of us, wherever life takes you. Moreover, as our world increasingly communicates via text and email, having a strong grasp on the written word is more important than ever.
The same 2013 study also found that reading for enjoyment was more important for children’s cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education. This is actually great news! Whilst we cannot change the level of a parents’ education, we can get books into kids’ hands. We can cultivate a love for reading within them. And, in turn, help their cognitive development!
Reading Should Not Only Be Associated with Attainment…
The Future of School Libraries report also found that reading should not be only associated with attainment, as it so often is at school. At primary school, my reading experience was marked by the Not-Very-Enjoyable Biff and Chip books. The primary school library has the freedom to step away from this. It can encourage children to read what they want to read, rather than reading just being about progressing from one stage to the next. When reading is solely tied to attainment, children can become disheartened and even give up reading.
This might mean that a child wants to linger a little longer with picture books than their peers. Or a child only really gets excited by reading when they have a fantasy book in their hands. Perhaps a child is only captivated by non-fiction and needs books on NASA and the Vikings to keep them hooked.
Books Are So Varied…
You just have to look at the books in our subscription boxes, to see how varied the world of children’s fiction is. There are books out there for any kid, with any interest. A sensitive, aware librarian would be able to tap into these interests. They would be able to meet a child where they are at with their reading and find books that encourage them further. In a survey done for the Future of School Libraries report, one in three mentioned the importance of a school librarian, or a trained teacher, to promote a positive relationship with reading. One responder said, ‘libraries are integral to promoting reading for pleasure, and a librarian who knows both their resources and the children they work with can make a huge difference.’
Reading Shouldn’t Have To Be A Chore…
Real reading for pleasure is when it does not feel like a chore. When a child does not feel that they are consciously trying to improve their literacy levels: they just are. Whenever I had to read Biff and Chip books, it was a real drag on my day. But, left with books of my own choosing, no one ever had to ask me to read them. I just did.
Incredibly successful children’s author, Neil Gaiman, has written on the profound impact of having a supportive library to go to as a child.
‘They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.
But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.’
Multiple studies have found a relationship between reading for pleasure and improved mental health in children. Furthermore, the library space itself can be an asset for metal well-being. It can provide a place of calm and reflection. A respite from the business of the classroom or the playground.
How Can You Help Us Improve Primary School Libraries?
We really care that one in eight primary schools in England do not have a library. We appreciate that the benefits of a primary school library are multi-faceted. Not only does it improve literacy levels, but it also improves educational achievement in all subjects. It has a positive impact on reading. And if we just stop at reading for pleasure – who doesn’t want their kid to feel pleasure? For them to imagine what it would be like to be a dinosaur? To take a trip to the mars? To meet a mermaid? There are numerous very practical reasons to advocate for primary school libraries – but we should also just value pleasure.
We hand-select books with diversity and inclusion in mind. We don’t want just any book on kids’ shelves. That won’t do. We want books that reflect their realities and expand their minds to just how different the world can be. Our books shatter gender stereotypes, include disabled characters, show LGBTQIA+ lives, explore race, and feature different family set-ups.
We have books by key stage: early chapter books for 5–8-year-olds. We also have thematic book collections, such as, books created by black authors and illustrators and our Love Your Planet Book Bundle.
You’re a business committed to diversity and inclusion and with a few clicks you can send books to a school who desperately needs them. Our Book Boost is a one-off delivery of 20 inclusive and representative books. This will help to update a school library.
You will also receive a certificate to acknowledge your generous donation, a thank you from the school, monthly updates about our literacy work, and a communications pack to talk about our work.
Be a part of increasing literacy levels across the country!
If you, like us, really care about improving literacy levels – then this is the package for you.
In becoming a literacy supporter, you will donate 100 books to a school library. Think about the 1 in 8 primary schools without a library – this could be the beginning of their library. This could be the start of overall increased academic attainment, enjoyment, and improved mental well-being.
This package comes with teaching resources to match the books. This will enable schools to unlock the full potential of the books they are given. As well as this, your company will receive:
- A welcome email series that will tell you more about literacy, Little Box of Books and your involvement.
- A communication toolkit that will help you inform the school of your support and to let them know what they can expect from you. It will help you communicate the project with your staff, your local press and give you some social media support.
- Monthly emails that will keep you up to date with general progress of the project and help you to support the school as much as possible.
- A Little Box of Books Literacy Supporter badge to use on website and in external communications, valid while your membership is active.
- A 6 months, 2 book per month, Little Box of Books subscription for a child of your choice.
Primary school libraries help academic attainment, mental well-being, and pleasure. We need them. Children need them.
So, we should all continue to raise awareness on this subject. Continue saying that 1 in 8 primary schools do not have a library until that number changes. Continue saying that there is no government requirement for schools to have a library, until that fact changes.