If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I’m a firm believer that access to reading is vital for children’s development – so this week’s open letter to Boris Johnson from the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, demanding investment in school libraries, drew a very big cheer of support from me.
Cowell’s letter, which is co-signed by children’s literary heavyweights including Malorie Blackman, Sir Quentin Blake, Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson and Sir Michael Morpurgo, (to name a few) calls for the Government to support Primary School libraries with a yearly boost of £100m.
It sounds like a lot of money, but around £320m is ring-fenced for sport in schools each year, so why not reading – aren’t both equally vital for children’s wellbeing? As Cowell says – dedicated long term funding is needed to help millions of children, particularly those from the poorest communities who have been hit worst by the pandemic, who are missing out on access to books.
I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog, but it bears repeating: research shows that reading for pleasure is the biggest single indicator of a child’s future success, in their education and work – more so than any other factor, including their family’s socio-economic status.
It is absolutely possible to read yourself into a better future.
But to do so, you need access to high quality books – and for many families, who are struggling to make ends meet, it just isn’t possible to buy books, which is why libraries – and particularly school libraries – are so vital.
The pandemic has brought the economic differences between families into stark relief, but the need for library funding is nothing new. Schools have been at the sharp end of a decade of cuts, and for many schools in the poorest areas, that has meant making very tough choices. In 2019 the Great School Libraries report found a lack of space, resource and expertise across school libraries. Whilst every prison has a dedicated library, the report discovered that one in eight primary schools has no library space at all; and that schools with higher proportions of children receiving free school meals were more than twice as likely to not have a designated library space.
The funding that Cowell is suggesting would aim to alter years of Government neglect. Books aren’t just a ‘nice to have’, those that read for pleasure are not only more likely to succeed at school and in their careers, but to have more empathy, to have better mental health, be happier, and to be more invested in their communities – they are more likely to vote, for example. Why should some people have easy access to these benefits, and others not?
Over the six months that I’ve been sending out books with Bumblebee, most months I’ve had a few books left as some publishers have a minimum order number, and I buy in more than I need to ensure I have enough for any new Bees joining the hive each month. Any spare books I have left, I donate to school and community libraries. So far, I have donated about 40 books (and the accompanying creative prompt cards) – it’s a drop in a very deep ocean, but it’s important to start somewhere.
If you are connected to a school or community library that would benefit from receiving free books, just drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll add you to my donate list.
And of course, by subscribing you can ensure that Bumblebee can continue to offer free resources to schools. It’s part of our mission to offer free books, resources and creative projects to schools that are most in need; by subscribing you are helping to close the literacy gap, enabling all children have a fairer future.
You can find out more about Cressida Cowell’s campaign here. As part of this work, a number of schools across the country, including Dinnington Community Primary in my home town of Rotherham, will receive support for their libraries. Please do show your support by sharing the campaign on social media.
With love and creativity,
Imogen at Bumblebee HQ x