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DfE launches auto-enrolment literacy campaign despite library cuts

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has launched a literacy campaign seeking to enrol every eight year old at their local library, partly as a response to research proving strong reading skills help people succeed and enjoy better health.

Morgan plans to give every child aged eight a library card as part of a ‘national mission’ to make England’s students the most literate in Europe.

Alongside children’s author David Walliams, she will create at least 200 new book clubs across the country to help pupils read confidently.

She said: “No matter where they live or what their background, every single child in this country deserves the opportunity to read, to read widely, and to read well – it’s a simple matter of social justice.”

Walliams added: “In a world of the constant distractions of televisions and computer games, it is more important than ever to encourage youngsters to read.”

A government press release emphasised that reading skills are correlated with better qualifications, rewarding careers and good health.

Earlier this month a report by Public Health England (PHE) found that children who don’t achieve the necessary development by age five will struggle with basic skills and can suffer negative outcomes later in life, particularly in their health, future earnings, links with crime and death.

Despite this, almost half of London children are not ‘school ready’ by age five and will therefore struggle with literacy, numeracy, physical and social skills.

Responding to Morgan’s announcement, Cllr Ian Stephens, chairman of the LGA’s culture, tourism and sport board, said: “Councils recognise the importance of boosting literacy among children and many already work with schools and other partners to encourage local children to read and join their library.

“However, efficiencies and innovation can only go so far and in the face of more potential budget reductions in the autumn spending review, councils could have to make some really tough choices about which services they can continue to provide.”

Morgan’s initiative comes just a few months after a nationwide budget crisis that saw £1bn being cut from several council services – including running libraries – to deal with the rising cash ‘crisis’ in elderly care funding.

This would put around 3,800 libraries at risk across the country.

Libraries are also at the firing line as a result of a 40% budget cut to local authorities, amounting to around £20bn by the end of this parliament.

Sheffield City Council nearly scrapped 14 public libraries in 2013, saved only by volunteers who offered to take over the services and finances.

However this was met with backlash from government bodies and other professionals, with the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) saying it was “opposed to job substitution where paid professional and support roles are directly replaced with either volunteers or untrained administrative posts to save money”.

Despite the financial crisis, Morgan will fund around 200 new book clubs in primary schools nationwide and pay for ‘The Reading Agency’, an extension of their Chatterbooks scheme.

Her initiative is based on findings that show 1 in 7 children aged eight to 16 “rarely or never read outside of school”.


Carol   24/08/2015 at 14:44

As all 'local' libraries have been closed in the area where I live, I think it would make a lot of sense to provide the service to the whole community by integrating the service with schools. The schools would benefit from larger supplies of books and seeing people of all ages borrowing books to read.

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