Children in reception classes are “swiping left” when they pick up a book, a union conference has heard.
The anecdote came as delegates at the annual conference of the NUT section of the National Education Union in Brighton raised concerns about funding cuts to libraries.
They warned that books were becoming a luxury that families often cannot afford
Jennifer Bhambri-Lyte, a delegate from North Somerset, said: "Sharing a book brings parents together for precious moments, and I've taught both nursery and reception and I personally still find it disturbing to see a child pick up a book and try to swipe left."
She told delegates that Kindles and iPads are “wonderful things”, but added: “Many of my friends talked about the smell of a book, finding tickets and receipts that someone had left as a bookmark, echoes of all the people that had been there before.
"Well, lovely, I hear you murmur, so? In a world of food banks, as my colleagues have previously talked about, books are a luxury that many families just cannot afford.”
Delegates raised concerns about a "shocking hammering" of library services in the last decade, warning that public libraries are often "armbands" for those in society who are struggling, and "sanity-savers" for parents who need somewhere to take their children.
Ms Bhambri-Lyte said: "Many of my teacher friends who are parents told me their library has often been a sanity-saver, many a time when their children have worn them out, driven them up the wall, taking them to a library has rescued them. And for the homeless, a library is simply a warm place, a safe place, a refuge."
Proposing the motion, Jonathan Reddiford, from North Somerset, argued that the number of public libraries has fallen by almost 900 in the last 10 years, with more expected to go.
"That is a shocking, shocking hammering of vital public services for many, many people," he said.