Literacy drive under threat, laureate warns
SCHOOL libraries are being run down with disastrous results for the most excluded children, the Children's Literature Laureate has warned.
Dr Siobhan Parkinson, renowned children's author and Laureate na nOg, warned that unless primary school libraries were well-stocked with a wide range of books designed to excite children's interest, the Government's literacy programme would fail.
She said the decision by the previous administration to withdraw the schools' library service in 2008 meant that libraries had been run down.
The reason given for the cut was that schools were receiving larger capitation grants and principals could use this to fund the purchase of library books.
However, Dr Parkinson said that while this was good in theory, in practice schools were using the extra funds in other areas.
"Learners only acquire real fluency as readers by constant reading," Dr Parkinson said.
"And they will only read constantly if they are offered books that ignite their interest and fire their imaginations."
She said it was the most excluded children, who often did not have ready access to books at home and whose families did not use public libraries, that were suffering most.
Dr Parkinson said that when the school library service ceased it was costing a "mere" €2.1m and was reaching 484,492 pupils and 3,269 schools.
She said she was not calling for extra funds for school libraries but rather she wanted the money already allocated to this area to be spent more carefully.