SoA lobbies Harman on school libraries

SoA lobbies Harman on school libraries

Schools in the UK should be required by law to have a library and they should be subject to Ofsted inspections, the Society of Authors has told Harriet Harman, with author Sarah Waters speaking out in support.
 
Harman, who is shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport, spoke this month at the Publishers Association’s (PA) annual general meeting and asked for suggestions on what the organisation would like to see in government party manifestos.
 
In response, PA chief executive Nicola Solomon has written an open letter to Harman with three recommendations: schools should have libraries by law; school libraries should be acknowledged by Ofsted school inspectors; and teachers should be encouraged to inspire alove of reading in their pupils.
 
Solomon pointed out that prisons have a statutory obligation to provide a library but “absurdly there is no such obligation in relation to schools”.
 
Dedicated librarians should be compulsory in all but the smallest primary schools, in which case a designated teachermust be given specialist library training, she said.
 
These libraries should be evaluated by Ofsted to encourage schools to engage with literacy strategies as well as digital and creative practitioners, she added.
 
Finally, Solomon said teachers should receive more training in teaching children to read for pleasure. Suggested initiatives include a compulsory teaching module on reading for pleasure, funding for schools to host author visits, and a web-based resource that would contain material from literacy and publishing professionals.
 
Sarah Waters, whose new novel The Paying Guests will be published by Virago in September, said Solomon’s letter is “absolutely right”.
 
She said: “How many times does this point have to be made to ministers? Books matter. They inspire, they inform, they delight; they encourage independent thought, invention and empathy. At a time when public libraries are being closed down, and when hard-pressed familieshave ever less money to spend on books, it is absolutely vital that school libraries are made a priority, and that teachers are given every support infostering literacy.”
 
Speaking at the PA meeting 8th May, Harman said it was a time of great change for publishing, and that as the UK headed towards next year’s general election all the political parties were thinking of their “offer on public policy to support publishing, literature, the arts, culture, the creative industries”.
 
Harman said she was an “avid reader” and that she wanted all the people in her constituency to have "the same sense that books are for them, that publishing as an opportunity could be for them, that creative writing could be for them”.