Children’s laureate Chris Riddell has called on education secretary Justine Greening to end the “disadvantageous school library lottery" and ensure every child in the country has access to a school library service.
In an open letter (see below), written with the support of all the previous eight children's laureates, Riddell said the differences in provision in school libraries (which are not a statutory requirement) can “damage many children’s life chances”.
He said: “When I took on this role [in 2015] I said it was surely madness that it is not a requirement for all schools to have a library. But as I visit schools across the country I find that library provision is wildly inconsistent. While there are great examples of well-funded and staffed libraries, it is obvious many schools are unable to provide what their pupils need: books they can read for pleasure, and ideally a librarian to help them grow as readers.
“Incredibly, it is impossible to know exactly how bad the problem is as the government has not yet acted on the advice of its own all party group to start the simple act of collecting information on existing services from schools.”
The government must therefore put in the funding to ensure every school provides its pupils with a library service, he added. “By taking the lead with England’s schools I hope the devolved parliaments in the rest of the UK will follow suit to improve library provision within their own schools.”
Riddell also called for families to take responsibility for encouraging reading for pleasure.
“It’s vital that children should not think of reading as something that only happens in school hours,” he said. “Parents can help by making sure there are books at home, reading with their children and by supporting teachers and schools in championing reading for pleasure.”
Riddell’s call has been given the full support of all eight former Children’s Laureates: Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Anthony Browne, Julia Donaldson and Malorie Blackman.
Riddell, who will this week began a laureate tour of schools in the country, posted the letter on his website.
His comments come on the heels of similar complaints from authors, teachers’ unions and Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).
Earlier this year the Association of Teachers and Lecturers voted for libraries to be included in Ofsted inspections, after fears were raised that schools are increasingly viewing books as obsolete, whilst in 2014 Barbara Band, president of CILIP, said the lack of statutory regulation for school libraries was “crazy”.