Letters extra: Libraries 3

23rd February 2001 at 00:00

Shereen Pandit credits children's and schools librarians with a dual mantra "As long as she's reading..." and "We're not snobs."

Shereen Pandit is very wrong. The aim of every librarian working with young people is to get the right book into the right child's hands at the right moment of their lives.

And far from being servants of the pappishly popular - doyens of Sweet Valley High and acolytes of Point Horror - librarians, more than any other area of the children's book community support quality children's books and reading.

It is telling that two of the authors - Berlie Docherty and Anne Fine - who she reckons "many librarians have never heard of" are past winners of the Carnegie Medal, a children's book award nominated and judged by children's and school's librarians.

Across the United Kingdom librarians are at the forefront of promoting the wonderful literature which is currently being written for young people.

Over 800 school librarians host reading groups which "shadow" the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals, prizes whose quality are such that they have been dubbed "the Booker of the Playground".

Over half a million children last year participated in public libraries' annual summer reading challenge - which aims to promote the quantity and quality of children's reading. Young Readers UK, the Northern Children's Book Festival and a host of other library-based reading festivals celebrate the highest standards of children's writing and illustration.

World Book Day is within sight and who but a librarian would be planning to promote poetry to children through creating a paper chain of favourite poetry to encircle the library?

As the National Literacy Strategy is extended to Key Stage 3 there is a massive need to understand the significance of promoting reading as well as literacy.

Librarians are doing this. Their promotion of quality books is exceptional and committed. The challenge to teachers and schools is to recognise the significance of both this activity and the librarian's role within the school and community.

Jonathan Douglas
Professional Adviser - Youth and School Libraries
The Library Association
London WC1 7AE

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