Wednesday, February 9

Library users 'become better readers'

Here’s an interesting article. I quote:

Children who use their local public library are twice as likely to be above average readers, a report has said. A survey of 17,000 children in Great Britain for the National Literacy Trust found they were also twice as likely to read outside class daily. Those reading below the expected level for their age were twice as likely not to use their local libraries, it said. Public libraries do not disproportionately attract children from poor or rich homes, it added

First of all, remember that this is being driven by the financial cuts to the local councils which is driving them to cut services such as libraries. Now, I am a bit ambivalent about this. On one hand, I am conscious of the fact that new technology and changes in behaviour means that amazon, ebay, smartphones, kindle et. al are driving towards e-books and direct delivery of books to home. Books are entertainment, remember, and kids do have tons of alternatives ranging from tv to computers to what have you. You really dont need libraries that much, but there is still a need. As a confirmed and total nut about books, I do love libraries, heck, i have one at home. So the disappearance hurts.

But going forward, the article sheds some light on some very sad facts, I quote:

It found that just under half (44%) of the children surveyed used their public library. Those that did not go were more than three times more likely not to read outside class and to rate themselves as not very good readers.

The most common reason for children not to go to their public library was that their family did not go. The report said: "Family engagement is well understood as a key element in supporting educational achievement, and it seems that public library use, as well as being associated with similar positive child outcomes to school library use, has in addition a particularly specialised correlation with family support for reading.

"Young people who use their public library are twice as likely to say that they talk with their family about what they are reading at least once a week and report that they get significantly more encouragement from their parents in reading generally."

Now here’s another conundrum. Going to the library does not really cost anything. But is this genetic in nature? Something about upbringing? Generalising wildly, rich people will have their own libraries, poor people are too ignorant and this is only a middle class thing? So when parents arent interested in books, why would their kids be interested in books? Sad sad sad. The end result? did you know that one in six people in the UK struggles to read write and communicate? And then we go about shutting down libraries.

1 comment:

Mags said...

Hmm, to my mind there is a severe and deliberate confusion between cause and correlation here. They have not proved that children are good readers because they use libraries, although that is what they want to imply.

I expect it's far more likely that parents who are engaged in their children's education, who value books and reading and read stories with their children are also the type of parents that take their children to libraries. I'm sure they also buy books, help with reading and read themselves. Environmental rather than genetic, I would have said. The same effect can come from any adult that reads with a child - a grandparent, aunt, uncle or school helper who concentrates time on that child. In fact, I would go further and guess there is a correlation between children who can swim before the age of 7 and good readers, simply because the sort of parents that make an effort to do activities with their children like take them to the library probably also take them swimming. They're not using the threat of damage to reading ability as a defence against closing swimming pools! Although when you think about it, there are plenty of alternatives to libraries but very few to swimming pools. Fiction is cheap (heavily discounted in supermarkets) and available from schools, and for reference, everyone uses the internet. Schools are aware that they need to teach the difference between reliable sources on the web and less reliable.

So for someone who is passionate about books, education and literature and hates sports, I find myself in the unexpected position of sticking up for swimming pools over libraries!