CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
Navigation Close

Libraries champion reading and develop literacy

Libraries at their core champion reading, learning and literacy. They provide free access for all to books and information on a huge number of subjects, in different formats, and stock all types of genres. Libraries and library staff believe that all people should be able to read for pleasure and feel empowered to access resources on whatever they are interested in. They have the power to foster a love of reading, literacy, and learning in people of all ages, from babies to young people and right through to adults who may have missed out on this when they were young.

There is now a wealth of information to show why this is important.

The Reading Agency’s Literature Review entitled ‘The Impact of Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment’ highlights that studies have found many positive personal, social, and external outcomes of reading. Personal outcomes include improved self-esteem, creativity, enjoyment, relaxation, and escapism. Social outcomes range from improved empathy and communication skills to enhanced parent/child communication and self-expression. External outcomes can be increased attainment, better knowledge of services, and social and cultural capital (p.10).

The Book Trust commissioned research which looked into Reading in Foster Families. Children in care have been found to often achieve lower educational outcomes than those who are not (p.6), however, around 3/4 of carers surveyed and interviewed felt that reading helped to widen their child’s vocabulary and helped with school work (p.9). 90% of foster carers who read with their child felt that it had improved their relationship (p.8) and in interviews, many foster carers said that reading was one of the best ways they could connect with their child (p.9).

Another recent report outlines the benefits of reading for loneliness, health and wellbeing, and social mobility:

  • Loneliness: In order to tackle issues of loneliness, “reading should absolutely be at the top of the list” (p.11). Various findings support this statement, such as the fact that young mothers, who are particularly susceptible to loneliness, say reading helps them to engage in conversation which can combat isolation. Additionally, those who are blind or partially sighted frequently state that reading once per week helps them feel less lonely. Lastly, older people who are vulnerable to isolation find that reading can help them to connect with people more easily through “reading inspired conversation” (p.11).
  • Health and wellbeing: There is strong evidence to show that reading leads to better health outcomes. Reading can regulate a person’s mood and can improve their ability to understand health information. Furthermore, reading self-help information and books has the ability to support those facing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression (p.16).
  • Social mobility: This report also makes a connection between reading and social mobility, the movement of individuals or households through the system of social stratification. Regardless of background, reading for pleasure is an extremely strong indicator of test scores. Reading for pleasure, information or empowerment also leads to improved reading confidence which in turn can lead to improved test scores which improves a person’s social mobility opportunities (p.22). Related to this point, research from the Institute of Education published in 2013 shows that children who read for pleasure do better at school than those who don’t and that reading for pleasure is more important for a child’s educational achievement than their family’s wealth or social class.

A report commissioned by SLIC on mobile libraries, ‘Libraries on the Move‘, found that many mobile library users find great benefit in reading non-fiction books. These help them to develop their knowledge and skills and develop new hobbies. Feedback from such users demonstrates the importance of being able to easily and freely access books and information via (mobile) libraries. For example, one user said “I am now working as a result of passing exams (the mobiles provided many of the books for my course). I am financially better off as a result of working” and another older user said that being able to access such resources “keeps your mind active” (p.22). The report also notes that there are three mobile libraries in Scotland that are specifically for schools or children. Children’s mobile libraries ensure that library resources are available to ‘hard-to-reach’ areas, subsequently meaning that children across communities can develop their reading skills and develop good reading habits (p.22).

Scottish Book Trust also show how reading to babies and young children can be beneficial. Fostering a love of reading early on helps babies and young children to develop good early communication and language skills. Developing good language skills and vocabulary is essential to ensure children can express themselves well and understand others. Public libraries do much to encourage reading from a young age. For example, they regularly run Bookbug sessions.

Skip to content