Children’s Laureate Calls on Minister to Restore Link between Public Libraries and Primary Schools
“A literacy programme that does not include a plan for well-stocked school and classroom libraries cannot succeed in making children literate”
Speaking at the Parnell Summer School on 15th August on the theme of Children and Equality, Dr Siobhán Parkinson, Laureate na nÓg/Children’s Literature Laureate, drew attention to an inequality of access to excellent children’s books in primary schools.
While welcoming the Minister for Education’s new Policy on Literacy and Numeracy, the Laureate pointed out that ‘a literacy programme that does not include a proper plan for well-stocked school and classroom libraries cannot succeed in making children literate’.
It is the most excluded children, she contends, children who do not have ready access to books at home and whose families do not use public libraries, the children who are most likely to need literacy intervention, who suffer most when school libraries are run down.
And they are being run down: the last government withdrew funding for school library books from the public libraries, claiming that the schools capitation grant had increased and was the appropriate source of funding for books for schools – with disastrous results for school libraries. When funding to the Schools Library Service ceased, at a cost of a mere €2.1m, it was reaching 3269 schools, 484,492 pupils and 31,349 full-time teachers.
Acknowledging that the education system is already under severe pressure, the Laureate nevertheless insisted that books for leisure reading in schools are not a luxury. ‘Learners only acquire real fluency as readers by constant reading,’ said Dr Parkinson. ‘And they will only read constantly if they are offered books that ignite their interest and fire their imaginations.’
She pointed out that she is not necessarily calling for additional funds, merely the more careful spending of public funds already theoretically allocated to books for schools. Funding for school libraries that is channelled through the public libraries means school library stocks that have been thoughtfully chosen by professional librarians with bulk buying power and represents good value for money.
‘I call on the Minister for Education to restore the formal link between public librarians and primary schools in the interests of both equality and literacy.’
For more information: www.library.ie/wp-content/uploads/School_Report2010.pdf