Children’s laureate Chris Riddell, has been praised for calling on the government to investigate the closure of school libraries.
Riddell wrote an open letter to Justine Greening, the secretary of state for education, calling on her to: “set out clear standards for library provision that will end this disadvantageous school library lottery that limits many children’s life chances.”
“I am asking you to ring-fence funds for this from the education budget so that every school has a library service it can be proud of,” Riddell wrote in the letter published by The Guardian on Scribd.
In response to the letter a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said it was up to schools to decide where their funding was spent.
“We want all children to have the opportunity to read widely – school libraries play a role in this and schools are responsible for deciding how to provide this service for their pupils,” the spokesperson explained.
“This is backed up by a record £40bn schools budget this year and it is up schools to spend their funding as they see fit.”
“Reading is a key part of a child’s education and ultimately helps them to reach their full potential,” the DfE spokesperson continued.
“That’s why we’ve strengthened the curriculum to focus on developing their reading and writing skills, and teaching phonics helps children acquire the basic building blocks of reading.”
Riddell’s letter received the backing of all eight former children’s laureates – Quentin Blake Malorie Blackman, Julia Donaldson, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen and Anthony Browne.
It has also been praised by representatives of the School Library Association and The National Literacy Trust.
Sally Duncan, assistant director of the School Library Association told The Huffington Post UK she “wholeheartedly supports” Riddell’s call for an end to the “school library lottery”.
“Having a well-funded and experienced librarian is an amazing boost to the number of children reading for pleasure and can have a positive effect on their educational attainment,” she said.
“It’s fantastic to see the children’s laureate and past laureates getting behind school libraries.”
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, concurred that library provision is “vital” to fostering an enjoyment of reading among children.
“Our research shows effective reading skills are vital to give children the opportunity to do well at school, gain employment and have a successful life; and these skills are most effectively developed when children enjoy reading and read frequently.
“Libraries in schools play a vital role in increasing children’s access to books and the role of the school librarian is central to stimulating children’s enjoyment of reading.
“Yet recent surveys show that a large number of primary schools with designated library space have seen their budgets reduced and the number of librarians in English schools has fallen significantly.
“With wider cuts to public library services, the role of school libraries are more crucial than ever, and indeed need to expand to meet the needs of families at either end of the school day and as a welcoming space for the whole school community.”