Services provided by public libraries can help young children prepare for formal education and address concerns over 'school readiness', according to a new poll of primary teachers.
The findings of the poll are included our new briefing note, 'Ready to Learn', which highlights the crucial role libraries play in helping young children settle in and succeed at school. Teachers, politicians and education bodies, including Ofsted, have all raised concerns that the pandemic has led to an increase in children who are not considered "school ready". Communication, social skills and literacy have been cited as particular areas of concern.
There is a growing body of evidence that libraries can help children get 'school ready' by providing access to a wide range of age-appropriate reading materials, hosting high-quality early years activities and promoting a positive home learning environment. Our campaign encourages parents of children starting Reception in September to make the most of the library in the coming weeks, including taking part in the nationwide Summer Reading Challenge.
The poll, carried out by Survation, reveals that:
- 90% of primary school teachers agree that visiting a public library regularly can help young children prepare for starting school
- 97% say preschool activities such as library "rhyme times" are important for young children’s development, with 66% saying they are “very important”
- 97% would advise a parent with a child starting school in September to enroll them with their local library
- 94% would advise a parent with a child starting school in September to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge
The poll also revealed that primary teachers would like to see more action by local and national government to increase preschool library use. More than 90% would support a national programme to give preschool children automatic membership of their local library, while 87% believe libraries should work with other services, such as health visiting teams or children’s centres, to help young children transition to school.
'Ready to Learn' also presents six case studies of library services running successful programmes targeted at school-starters and their families. These include:
- The London Borough of Newham, whose school readiness programme is delivered in partnership by librarians and health visitors.
- North Yorkshire, where the Grown and Learn initiative has seen over a thousand babies enrolled with their local library during birth registration appointments.
- Bradford Libraries Rhyme Challenge, which last year reached 6,000 children and parents through toddler groups, nurseries and primary schools.
We are calling on local authorities to put public libraries at the heart of a co-ordinated multi-agency approach to supporting young children and their families as they prepare to start school.
Isobel Hunter MBE, chief executive of Libraries Connected, commented:
Helping young children develop the skills they need to thrive at school is a fundamental role of public libraries. That role is more important than ever as we tackle the post-pandemic attainment gap between children from lower-income households and their better off peers.
Our poll shows that teachers are overwhelmingly positive about libraries and firmly believe that they can help prepare children for school. Libraries are exciting, accessible environments that spark imagination, curiosity and a love of learning. They should be at the heart of efforts to ensure children arrive at school ready to learn and flourish.
Poll conducted by Survation on behalf of Libraries Connected. Full data is available in the downloadable table below.