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Gruffalo author calls to protect school libraries from ‘short-sighted’ cuts

Category: Libraries Matter

The acclaimed author of The Gruffalo has added her voice to a national campaign, which champions Scotland’s library services to protect them from further cuts.

Julia Donaldson MBE is supporting the Libraries Matter campaign from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS), which asks candidates standing in the local government elections on 4th May 2017 to protect the library budget and support professionally staffed school libraries.

The former Children’s Laureate is highlighting the importance of school libraries and librarians in supporting the curriculum, which research shows improve reading, attainment and literacy levels  – core aims of the Scottish Government.

Despite this, school libraries are undervalued. Pupil numbers have increased by more than 6700 since 2010, but cuts have left only 11 out of 32 local authorities with a full-time qualified librarian in every secondary school.

During her visits to schools across the UK and overseas, Mrs Donaldson sees first-hand the value that school libraries and librarians add to learners’ education. She said:

“Reading broadens the mind, stimulates the imagination and increases literacy. And librarians and libraries are the most important people and places for fostering a love of reading.

“In particular, school librarians, who develop close relationships with the pupils, often can suggest just the right book to a child from a home where there are few or no books, instilling what can become a lifelong love of reading.”

Mrs Donaldson also penned an open letter to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last year, despairing about the closure of Argyll & Bute’s school libraries. She added: “When I was in Australia recently I met a group of primary-school librarians, who told me that their post was a prestigious one: to attain it, one has to be a teacher with an additional librarian’s qualification entitling one to an increase in salary.

“They could hardly believe it when I told them that in the UK there were hardly any primary-school librarians and that many of those in secondary schools were losing their jobs.

“How can we be so short-sighted?”

The Libraries Matter campaign also calls on those who use or work in libraries to get involved in advocating the benefits that Scotland’s school libraries deliver, such as Elgin Academy’s Paired Reading scheme, which actively improves reading ages (case study below).

Catherine Kearney, Director of CILIP in Scotland, said: “School libraries are a safe and supportive learning environment where all pupils have equal and equitable access to curriculum-related learning resources, both physical and digital, practical support, and information for educational purposes.”

“Schools with school libraries and librarians achieve higher exam scores, leading to higher academic attainment and increased motivation and self-esteem among pupils.”

“Our campaign targets those standing for election in Scotland’s local authorities to pledge support for our school and public libraries and stand up against cuts and reductions in service. In addition, we have held discussions with the Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills John Swinney, highlighting the need for National Standards for school libraries.”

Added Eileen Prior, Executive Director at Scottish Parent Teacher Council: “Children, parents and teachers appreciate school libraries and the advice of dedicated librarians. They contribute to the learning of children and foster a love of books, which is a life-long gift. At a time when literacy is a key priority in our schools, the role of libraries and librarians is even more critical than ever.”


Case Study: Paired Reading scheme at Elgin Academy, Moray.

Elgin Academy’s librarian, Shelagh Toonen, introduced the Paired Reading scheme in 2012 and its benefits are acknowledged within the school community. S6 students are paired with younger S1 pupils to encourage reading fluency and comprehension with the sharing of books and reading held in the library.

Kayleigh Young, an S6 student, said: “The Paired Reading scheme is extremely beneficial for all who take part. I have seen the confidence of my paired reader Bruce grow incredibly. He has communication difficulties, so this experience has been all the more rewarding. It has been amazing to see his confidence and motivation grow in reading. I have also helped him with creating and presenting his book talks and helped him to focus his interests.

“I highly recommend participating in a paired reading scheme, as everyone gains. It also creates a closer bond between year groups and so benefits the whole school community.”

At the end of the academic session, the librarian interviews the outgoing S6 students on film about their experience, which is used at the induction day for new S6 students while the readers’ interviews are used to develop the scheme.

Karen Grant, Depute Head Teacher at Elgin Academy, said: “The Paired Reading programme makes a significant difference to the students, with their reading ages clearly improving.  It unlocks literacy across all their learning, in all their subjects.  It gives them the confidence to move forward in their reading and to work on a one-to-one basis with a positive role model.”


Press Release issued on 27th March 2017 by JK Consultancy on behalf of CILIP in Scotland


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