‘Libraries are a marvellous democratic tool: by being inclusive, open to all, they tend to equalise an otherwise very unequal society and are a force for social justice.’
Siobhán Parkinson, inaugural Laureate na nÓg
Children’s Books Ireland is calling on the government to reinstate the school library grant which was abolished in Budget 2008. Valued at approximately €2.2m, the grant from the Department of Education and Skills was instrumental in helping schools to support their students’ needs in relation to literacy, numeracy and reading for pleasure. Research has shown that reading for pleasure improves mental well-being, increases vocabulary, builds literacy and numeracy skills and is the strongest indicator of success at school and beyond. A lack of school libraries hits areas of socio-economic deprivation hardest and is particularly problematic for schools in rural areas, whose pupils will have more limited access to public libraries.
CEO of Children’s Books Ireland Elaina Ryan said: ‘Children’s Books Ireland welcomes and fully supports the call by The Society of St Vincent de Paul for the government to end voluntary donations and introduce free school books. Furthermore, our children need an appropriate selection of books to read for pleasure. We know that reading is linked with myriad positive outcomes for children, not least improved mental wellbeing. Many school libraries, where they exist, are stocked with dated, tatty, unsuitable books and some newly-built schools with dedicated library spaces have no books on their shelves. In numerous schools, teachers buy books with their own money, and cannot cater to the needs of students who use English as an additional language or who have learning difficulties. As a nation that prides itself on its literary history and on having above average reading levels compared with our international peers, we need to invest in books and ensure that all children have equal opportunities to reap the benefits of having access to the joy of reading.’
Children’s Books Ireland’s vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life. The organisation works with corporate and philanthropic partners to ensure that all children have access to reading, including those most in need. In the last year, Children’s Books Ireland donated 5,500 books to schools and charities as well as bringing writers and illustrators into schools, training teachers and librarians to build a culture of reading and providing invaluable information to parents and carers about excellent books for their children. Preliminary results of a survey on school libraries and the needs of schools in relation to books, in partnership with University College Dublin and the School Library Association in the Republic of Ireland, will be published in the Autumn.
Children’s Books Ireland is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.
- The school libraries grant of 2.2 million or approx. €4.52 per primary school pupil was cut in the 2008 budget.
- In 2009 The Library Council surveyed schools and public libraries. This report (The Public Library and the School: Policies and Prospects for Library Services to Primary Schools in Ireland, 2010) found widespread dismay across the sector re. loss of this grant, that a majority of schools surveyed didn’t have libraries (53%) and a majority that did not intend to purchase library books from the school’s already overstretched capitation grant, which is used for all school running costs, from overheads to art supplies.
- The Scottish Library and Information Council review (Williams, Wavell & Morrison, 2013) found that there is a considerable body of international evidence showing school libraries impact on:
- Higher text or exam scores equating to academic attainment
- Successful curriculum or learning outcomes, including information literacy
- Positive attitudes towards learning
- The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) recommend an average stock of 13 books per pupil and 17 books per pupil for those over the age of 16 – CBI are confident most Irish school libraries will fall short of this.
- International studies have found a significant link between reading for enjoyment and educational achievement; there is evidence that reading for pleasure has a greater impact on a child’s educational success than the family’s socio-economic status and could be an important way to help combat social exclusion and raise educational standards (OECD 2002).
The Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal study data showed:
- At age 9, children with more books at home (30+ children’s books, including books on loan from libraries) are 30% more likely to read every day than those with 10–20 books at home. Working class, non-employed, lower income and lone parent households typically had fewer books.
- At age 9, 6% said that they never read for fun, while at 13 it increases to 21%, with 33–33% of boys from working class or non-employed backgrounds reporting that they do not read for pleasure at all. It is of vital importance to increase access to books at this age, and school libraries are best positioned to reach these children.
- Those who read for fun more often have higher levels of achievement in reading and maths, are happier, more self-confident as learners and have better socio-emotional wellbeing.
(Press release issued 27 August 2019)