Monday, 24 February 2014

Children’s Literacy

A couple of weeks ago it was National Libraries Day, which has been set up to promote and celebrate the role of libraries up and down the country. As the Camborne Library is just moments away from my constituency office I was able to pop in after I had finished my weekly surgeries. Despite the terrible weather some people had managed to make it over there and during my visit it wasn’t difficult to see just how important the library is to the community and how dedicated the small team of staff are to running a really useful service. I even signed up myself.

Jim Walters, the senior Librarian, took me through the users of the service and what books people are reading at the moment. Those above sixty probably form the most regular customers and especially utilise the internet facilities, whilst I was also interested to learn that crime and detective authors remain the most sought after.

However I was also really heartened to hear that primary school children are amongst the highest users. This is because various schools are involved in a government led reading competition which encourages students between the ages of seven and twelve to read a book a week. The schools work with county libraries on this and in Cornwall the scheme is flourishing. It is a great idea because alongside getting children reading it introduces them to the library. We have some fantastic libraries in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and we need to make sure they are supported with the right funding but also that they are used regularly.

Reading is a vital part of a child’s education and in our area it is clear that schools and academies know this. Trevithick Primary School, which educates most of the children who live in Pengegon, places a strong emphasis on reading and literacy with one to one tuition outside the classroom where teachers develop the reading skills of individual pupils. I think this is so important because unless children learn to read and write at primary school and develop basic numeracy skills, then they will struggle to keep up at secondary school and before you know it, their morale suffers and they start to conclude that school is not for them. I have also seen some good work in our secondary schools including a project at Pool Academy where year 7 and 8 children new to the school help mentor children from local primary schools who are about to start secondary school.

Although I don’t have much time anymore to sit down and read a good book I want to make sure our libraries and our education system allow children to do just that. Developing an ability to read well is a crucial stepping stone in a child's education and libraries have a vital role to play.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.