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The role of libraries

 

Our patron Bookseller Marilyn Brocklehurst writes about the importance of libraries

Children benefit from regular opportunities to explore a collection of books so they can learn to become confident choosers who are not afraid to experiment. When a child says ‘Reading is Boring’ I know what he/she often really means is ‘I can’t find a book I like’

Children also need gentle guidance, as well as opportunities to browse and discover in order to become enthusiastic about trying new books – and of course it should always be made clear to them that they can always stop reading a book which doesn’t hold their interest.

So, where better to gain valuable choosing experience, while at the same time discovering lots of wonderful books – than your local public library – and each child can choose ten or more books to take home at every visit!
Young children will make completely random choices at first, but it isn’t long before pre-school children have observed the process and begin to take part in it. Choosing is very empowering, especially if your mistakes don’t stay around to haunt you. You only have to watch a group of children gathered around Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt’s hugely popular book ‘You Choose’ to recognise how exciting it is for children to make decisions about their own destiny!

The excitement doesn’t end at the library. How wonderful to get home, and to spread out all your spoils from the library – a family might have 20-40 books – to examine what everyone has chosen, and decide which to read first – and to gaze mystified at the book no-one will take responsibility for choosing! With every new clutch of books children may be discovering new ideas about reading…

  • It’s ok just to look at the pictures
  • Some books just need one read-through, others demand multiple revisiting
  • Picture books are exciting for all ages
  • Some books have no words – the pictures by themselves tell a complex story
  • Some books demand that you read more in a series, or the next one in a sequence so you can reunite with favourite characters
  • Some books need to be read aloud and shared with a supportive adult
  • Books can be funny, or there may be frissons of fear, sad bits, and some books may be about someone just like you.

It’s so important to support developing readers, providing the means for them to grow into life-long book-lovers. Sharing their excitement, and spending time reading aloud with children of ALL ages so that the words come to life is crucial, and apart from enjoying the inventiveness and entertainment of children’s books, sharing books is a perfect way to provide your children with what they need most, your attention, your time and your love.

Public Libraries are welcoming places with enthusiastic and helpful staff. There’s even a wonderful reading challenge in every library to keep children turning the pages during the long summer holiday. Babies can join the public library at birth – although I recognise that this might not be new parents’ primary concern on the way back from the maternity unit. Adults are well catered for too – I have a friend who has recently rediscovered her local library. Each week she posts a photo on twitter of her current selections along with exclamations of enthusiasm and delight about this amazing free resource available to all.

So what are you waiting for? See you at the library!
Marilyn Brocklehurst is a former librarian and founder of Norfolk Children’s Book Centre
She runs annual conferences on Reading for Pleasure see here for more information about the November conference