Thursday 31 October 2019

All schools need a well stocked and staffed library and this should be a PRIORITY in any proposed Government Literacy Strategy - no ifs, no buts - This Week's #ReadItTorial

Testing. Testing is still seen as the be all and end all of driving and determining a child's level of literacy, numeracy and skill in other academic subjects. The current Government (I use that term loosely, 'cage of gibbons' is probably more of an appropriate description but I quite like gibbons so maybe not) believes this entirely, and has spent its years in power promoting and pushing that on education professionals at all levels.

Literacy in particular has been under such close scrutiny, and it's clear that the current education strategies are failing kids left right and centre, and not producing the magical literacy engagement that folk want to see. A mass of fronted adverbials, and the almost rectal pain of trying to get kids enthusiastic about reading, books and literacy through deep analysis of the structure of our language is clearly missing the point.

I was lucky as a kid. Lucky that even though I went to three very rough schools, each had its own library (in fact the roughest of the three had a huge library, extremely well stocked, that wasn't just a place to go and find amazing books but a refuge for kids like me who really wanted to be anywhere else other than the playground at playtime). It wasn't even something that was discussed or debated back then. Nearly all schools would consider it to be one of the most important resources, and the librarian to be someone that wasn't just there to check out books, but someone who could drive that much-sought-after engagement with books (have you, honestly, ever met a librarian who just did their job for the paycheck?)

My passion for books and reading came from home and from parents / grandparents and uncles, but also from our school librarian who (with a twinkle in her eye) could almost uncannily predict which books would be a hit or a miss with me.

My daughter has attended the same school from Reception right through to seniors, again a school that (thankfully) not only has a library but recognises its importance as a resource and a hub for its pupils. Sadly libraries are often the first thing to be cut when a school needs to tighten its belt, and on Twitter the rallying cry of librarians, authors, illustrators and just about everyone involved in kidlit is loud and singular in focus - Schools need libraries, no ifs no buts.

We often hear the same thing - that prisons are required to have libraries and books yet schools aren't and I can't even get my head around why this is a thing. I understand that there are folk who share the view that the internet is all the library we need now, but the internet is an unstaffed resource full of misinformation, fake news, distractions and of course a smattering of useful knowledge that's as much fun to unpick as all the cables nestling under your telly. We need libraries - in our towns, in our schools, and we can drive amazing engagement with books through them, we can let kids build their own reading journeys without pushing tests and ridiculous deconstruction of the language on them. It can be done but the push has to come from the top.