Shelve the cuts to library budgets

6th August 2010 at 01:00

Helen Ward's article in last week's The TES graphically demonstrated the pressures on school libraries ("Fears for future of libraries as a third of secondaries slash book budgets", July 30). It is time to ask headteachers to make up their minds about the value of reading in schools.

I have come to the conclusion that a significant minority are not convinced of the importance of reading. For this group, the budget and the headline pass rate are all. A broader vision of education is fading from view. I have written to several headteachers asking them to save their libraries from closure. Not one of this group has changed their mind, despite all the evidence that reading for pleasure significantly improves a child's life chances, especially a child who does not have books at home. Some have not even replied. Invariably, they hide behind the mantra, "The money isn't there".

But if reading is not an educational priority, what is? In the autumn, the School Library Commission will provide the evidence anyone will need to make the case for school libraries. I appeal to management teams to put reading at the heart of the curriculum. Improving reading can not and will not be achieved by excerpts. It requires an expert librarian with a well-stocked library, working in tandem with teachers.

If you believe in reading you must stand up for it right here, right now.

Alan Gibbons, Children's author and organiser of the Campaign for the Book, Liverpool.

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