Tackling disadvantage one book at a time

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Schools and colleges are a core part of any young person's education but, on their own, they have only a limited impact.

The initiatives of the 1990's and first in decades of this of this century have often focused on addressing disadvantage, attempting to create a more meritocratic approach to success in formal education. These initiative have included early years interventions, such as Sure Start, or large scale action, such as the introduction of the pupil premium funding.

Whatever the initiative the same underlying premise applies that the impact of parenting and home circumstances is significant on the educational achievement of children. Setting aside those families described as hard to reach, where there can be multi-generational benefit dependence, low incidence of regular employment and little status given to education, what is the institution that best and most consistently supports learning outside of school from toddler toteen? The public library.

In 2013 a report for the Arts Council and the Local Government Association, Community librarie - Learning from experience: guiding principles for local authorities, concluded that Evidence suggests that low-income communities are likely to find it harder to play a pro-active and sustainable role in managing their local libraries. Yet these communities probably have the most to gain from library services.

Echoing this message Nicky Morgan was quoted in a BBC report as stating "No nmatter where they live or what their background, every single child in this country deserves the opportunity to read, to read widely, and to read well - it's a simple matter of social justice.

There's no disputing it. If we want young people to value literacy at more than a utilitarian level, and if we want learning to be something that is supported for all families, public libraries are a national asset.

To conclude with the Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson, quoted on the Voices for the Library website "Libraries are where so many children discover what books they like best and become lifelong readers. They're also great places for research. When I worked in Easterhouse library lots of local children came in to do their homework browsing, reading and receiving help from the experts on hand, rather thansitting at home printing out reams of often irrelevant and undigested material from the internet.

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