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Library funding cuts mean we are denying people the joy of reading for pleasure

We need public and school libraries where the books look modern and exciting and relevant to the children’s lives, like sweets, not brussels sprouts

Funding cuts are painfully short-sighted
Funding cuts are painfully short-sighted

I’ve been an Ambassador for the National Literacy Trust for over a decade and I know that study after study has shown over the years that one of the two key factors in a kid’s later economic and educational success is reading for PLEASURE. I put that in capitals because it is so important. Reading widely for the JOY of it, not because you have to.

This is a statistic that cuts across all social classes, so it ought to be encouraging. It ought to mean that whatever economic background you come from, you still have the same chance to become a reader for pleasure as anyone else. That is the function that public and school libraries used to fulfil, making sure that children from less well-off backgrounds still had a chance to become readers for pleasure.

However, all across the UK, libraries are closing on high streets, and in schools, and this will have an inevitable effect on social mobility in this country.

A society in which social mobility is not possible, is an unhappy society.

So we need to address the problems of library closure in schools and on the high street as a matter of urgent priority. (It’s worth adding too that given the creative industriesimmense contribution to the economy, cuts like those revealed today are effectively cutting off the prosperity of our own future. It’s very unconnected thinking.)

If your parents can’t afford to buy books, and there is no public library to borrow them from, and your primary school hasn’t got a school library, how on earth are you supposed to become a reader for pleasure when you have no access to books whatsoever?

Budget 2018: Philip Hammond says 'era of austerity is finally coming to an end'

If we want every single child to become a reader for pleasure we need well-stocked public and school libraries where the books look modern and exciting and relevant to the children’s lives, like sweets, not brussels sprouts.

We need librarians in school and public libraries, who are expert in getting children to read for pleasure, and getting the right book in the hands of the right child at the right time.

We need to keep on conveying the message to parents that getting children to read is not something they can leave up to the school but is something in which they themselves have a vital and urgent role, by reading with their children right from birth and way beyond the age when they can read for themselves.

And if people cannot afford books, we need to continue to encourage people to visit the library.

But in order for that to happen, of course, the library needs to actually BE there.

Cressida Cowell is a children’s authour, known for the How to Train your Dragon series.

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