New survey reveals lack of libraries are affecting children’s literacy levels

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19th December 2017 10:51 - Museums, Libraries and Archives

New survey reveals lack of libraries are affecting children’s literacy levels

New survey reveals lack of libraries are affecting children’s literacy levels: Statistics from an annual survey by The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy reveal that the number of libraries available in the UK have declined for the seventh year running.

Compared to 2016’s statistics, the number of libraries have declined by 105, due to a £66million cut on council-run libraries.

Because of lack of funding, in over half a decade the number of paid library staff has declined by 5% and the number of visitors has fallen by 14%. In the same period of time, the number of books issued has also decreased by 25.1%, with loans of children’s books falling not too far behind by 22% in England. Furthermore, the number of children’s books loaned in Sheffield fell by 56%, followed by Newcastle at 35% and Birmingham by 32%.

Last year, children’s literacy levels in England came last place out of 22 other countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. In addition, it was reported that 5million UK adults lack basic literacy and numeracy skills and one in 20 adults have a reading age of a five-year-old.

According to a BBC report, a person with poor literacy skills is “more likely to live in a non-working household, less likely to vote and less likely to have access to technology.” With 130 schools recently failing to meet Ofsted expectations and councils not meeting ‘basic social work standards’ earlier this year, the non-availability of libraries is arguably making it more difficult for children to receive the guidance they need. Nonetheless, many journalists are pointing the finger towards parenting as a contributing factor to England’s low literacy levels.

Librarian and Editor of Public Library News, Ian Anstice, believes that “if you’re wealthy and you can afford a lot of books, that’s brilliant, you don’t need a library. But if you’ve got a child, from toddles – who are absolutely voracious for picture books – onwards, to give your child the same access to books, and thus to improved literacy, you need a library.” He also believes that children need “equality of access to information, and to imagination.”

In addition, Library Campaigner, Tim Coates noted: “We’re now almost to the point that it’s beyond repair. There’s no stopping it unless something really dramatic happens.”

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