Public libraries are an often underestimated, important part of local community. Not only do they exist without the expectation that you have to spend money to use their services; but they offer free access to books, enabling children and adults to explore a love of reading without any financial implication. They also provide community, digital access, information, and employment skills. More recently, due to the increase in energy costs that rendered many families across the UK unable to heat their homes this winter, many libraries have acted as ‘warm havens’ for those to shelter in when Britain was at its coldest.
Local libraries are a vital part of community, with many offering baby and toddler groups that are either free to attend or that are available to parents at an affordable rate.
In 2019, The Guardian found that since the Conservative-Lib Dem government implemented austerity measures in 2010, over 800 libraries had been forced to close.
Additionally, due to reduced funding, those that remain open are limiting opening hours in an attempt to reduce running costs. However, public libraries have been deemed as ‘vital’ in closing the post-pandemic literacy gap in children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Children from disadvantaged communities have fallen furthest behind;
- School readiness has suffered and more children are starting school with speech and language delay;
- The early language development of babies and toddlers from disadvantaged communities has been particularly impacted by temporary library closures.
Yet, the report also found that although children returned to education with ‘a strong appetite for learning’, it discovered that 1 in 11 children from the poorest backgrounds do not own a book. Public libraries are key in challenging this result of social disadvantage – they offer free access to books in a society where book ownership, reading and literacy is strongly related to socio economic status.
Local libraries are a vital part of community, with many offering baby and toddler groups that are either free to attend or that are available to parents at an affordable rate. The report found that the role of local libraries was key in supporting early language development and that the activities provided within libraries were demonstrated to be of central importance to later literacy development. Groups which involved the language of stories, singing nursery rhymes and promoting familiarity with books helped to create early literary skills and, that these may help a child begin to read and write at a later stage. Many libraries also offer activities for older children, such as reading support – offering a child the opportunity to read to an adult outside their home, along with activities such as study support sessions, book clubs and even Scrabble clubs.
It is evident that public libraries play a key role in our communities; they offer vital access to books for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is an obvious focus from charities such as World Book Day, who’s 2023 theme was to encourage a love of reading in children from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, and the local library is the link to achieving this.