CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Scotland’s Libraries – Promoting the Value of Literacy and Learning

Category: Inspiration for the Nation 2016

Guest Blog by Amina Shah, Director of Programme, The Scottish Book Trust, as part of the‘Scotland’s Libraries: Inspiration for the Nation’ Campaign.


Libraries across Scotland will be taking the chance, on National Libraries Day 2016, to celebrate the role public libraries play in supporting children’s early learning and literacy. Libraries in areas of deprivation across the country have been granted Scottish Government funding and resources to support a new parental involvement campaign for early primary school children – Read, Write, Count. The campaign which aims to improve literacy and numeracy skills among children in P1-3 is being delivered by Scottish Book Trust and Education Scotland and is funded by the Scottish Government, has identified libraries as playing a key role. Where better to promote the value of literacy and learning than in local libraries?

It is well known that access to books is the key factor in determining a child’s success and supporting literacy levels. As highlighted by Save the Children’s Read on Get on Campaign, a love of books and reading in the early years is central to improving attainment, wellbeing and quality of life further down the line. Since their inception, libraries have been firmly anchored to the belief that books and knowledge should be available to all. One of the most exciting aspects of this campaign is that it is not just about the books themselves and the beautiful shelving units provided to the 100 libraries in the most deprived areas of Scotland, or the signposting for children and those who look after them but it is also about sending a clear message that developing not only a reading habit, but a library habit, will offer a bedrock of support from early years throughout life. By recognising the library as a welcoming space to share reading, counting, speaking, writing can in fact be empowering and life changing.

Last summer, I had the great pleasure of meeting Sergio Farjardo, a Columbian politician and Mayor of Medellin who has recognised that creating library parks, beautiful buildings where adults and children have access to books, and putting reading, learning and education at the heart of political policy, is the key to combatting crime and drug culture in Columbia and breaking the cycle of poverty. We have a real opportunity to make sure that message is understood in Scotland too.  Making best use of our 500 public libraries – many of which are in areas of multiple deprivation, has got to be seen as a solution to breaking down the barriers preventing Scotland from having better outcomes for every child, regardless of class or postcode. Those of us who work in libraries and with books,  should use National Libraries Day to shout as loudly as we can about the fact that libraries are not just nice to have – not a peripheral luxury, but the absolute bedrock of a democratic society; of one that believes in investment in preventative measures and in giving everyone equal access to information, books, space and time to live an empowered and informed life and a real answer to reducing poverty, inequality and the attainment gap.

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