Reading, families and children

Photo of cat sat in a person's lap reading a book

Reading together is important. Image (c) from Cheezburger.com

You may have come across the National Literacy Trust reports before, or their other resources. They have lots of useful material for library staff, educators etc, on the benefits of reading, literacy, libraries etc.

Recently I was looking through some of their reports to find some evidence and information I could use for a policy briefing and found a variety of interesting facts and figures. A couple of these are:

If we put the two together we can see that appealing to families and parents is critical to enabling children to use libraries. The reference to families jogged my memory that in the research report by the Carnegie UK Trust they had found that in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in particular, having children in the household lead to higher library usage (section 5.2.3). Wales did not have this link (section 5.2.9). In the accompanying Wales factsheet it also showed that there was a relatively higher proportion of people who rarely or never read books at 29% compared to Scotland at 12% (sections 2.2 and 2.4).

These findings suggest that if we want to help improve a child’s life chances through encouraging their love of reading, we need to look at the parents. Many of the annual library festivals in Wales do feature family events and children’s activities, and in fact the event in Rhyl for the Get Libraries campaign this autumn was held in half term, but it’s also worth considering if we should target a whole festival around families. I haven’t discussed this with the marketing team yet (“hello girls!”) but it’s certainly an idea. Parents need to be attracted to the library not just on behalf of their children, but also for the benefits to themselves as adults.

As well as libraries, the Welsh Government’s educational policies are tackling low literacy in children for example through their ‘Make time to read‘ campaign, aimed at adults.

And, in the process of writing this blog post and getting the links, who would have guessed that the NLT have, two days earlier, published another report called ‘Family Matters: The Importance of Family Support for Young People’s Reading’! It’s their second annual literacy survey and is based on responses from nearly 21,000 8 to 16-year-olds from 128 schools in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Worth a read.

It reiterates that parents need to not only encourage their children to read, but can have an impact by also be seen reading by their children. The survey finds that fathers are far less likely to encourage their children to read and that the proportion of fathers who are not seen to be reading at all has increased from 25% in 2009 to 33% in 2011.

In Wales several of the reading campaigns that I can think of by the Welsh Books Council and the education department have tried to tackle this by having male sporting icons headlining their campaigns. As have some of the library campaigns. Definitely food for thought for future library marketing initiatives.

About alysontyler

Civil servant, yoga teacher and former librarian.
This entry was posted in Libraries, Literacy, Public libraries, Reading, Research, UK and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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