readilearn: Libraries, books and reading = infinite worlds to explore

  • Published on October 12, 2018

the importance of libraries, books and reading

What is your fondest memory of a library?

Books, books, and more books. More books than I could ever read.

Books to inform, books to entertain, books to amuse, books to escape the everyday world.

Libraries, books and reading

As a child, I borrowed from the school library and the public library. I remember walking the 3.7 kilometres (2 ¼ miles in those pre-metric days of my childhood) to the public library most Saturdays and coming home with an armload of books.

As a parent, I read to and with my children many times a day —morning, afternoon and evening. Books were always given as gifts, and we had shelves filled with books we owned, but these were always supplemented with books borrowed from the library. We could never have too many books.

As a teacher, I shared my love of reading with the students, making the most of every opportunity to read to them, regardless of whether it be reading time, maths time, science time or whatever time.

Many of the children I taught had not had early opportunities to fall in love with books. I believed (believe) it is imperative to foster a love of reading and learning to empower children, soon-to-be-adults, in making their own educated and informed life choices. The families of many of these children could not afford to purchase books, but with access to school and public libraries, there was never a reason for them to be without books to read.

Nowadays, libraries are not just books, and the old library cards have been replaced with digital catalogues and borrowing systems. Not only is there more to know, but there are also more ways for information to be stored and shared, and more ways to learn.

The role of teacher librarians

the role of teacher librarians

I always appreciated the teacher librarian who could suggest and provide books on different topics or with different themes, match books to readers, and find just the right book for a reluctant reader. Library sessions at school were always enjoyed. It was fun watching children decide which books to borrow and then beg for them to be read.

In recent years, school libraries and librarians have come under attack by financially-minded rather educationally-focused decision makers. Many schools are choosing to save money instead of employing teacher librarians and are emptying their shelves of books.

This saddens me when I think of the influence that access to libraries and teacher librarians had on my interest in reading and passion for education, and the opportunities that will be lost to future generations if they are no longer around. I have already mentioned that they:

  • Support teachers by locating appropriate resources to support teaching
  • Match children to books
  • Know what is current and what’s hot, and what might turn a particular child onto reading.

But they do more than that, as this article from the Australian School Library Association explains.

Teacher librarians are:

  • Curriculum Leaders
  • Information Specialists
  • Information Services Managers.
Authors and readers unite

Authors and readers the world over are united in their view of the importance of libraries and librarians.

Author Neil Gaiman says he believes that libraries are about the most important things there are. His view is that librarians are the thin red line between civilisation and barbarism. They are that important. He says that Google can bring you back 100 000 answers, but a librarian can bring you back the right one.

if books were portals then the library was my universe - quote by Dimity Powell

In her guest post on readilearn earlier this year Libraries — A wondrous universe to explore, Dimity Powell shared the powerful contribution libraries made to her development as both a reader and a person. She wrote:

“These days, however, it’s not just the shy bookish kids that frequent school libraries. IT opportunities attract kids to the resource centre like ants to a picnic. Primary school libraries are purpose-built, technology imbued, uber cool places to hang out in on a hot day – literally, but also because games, lounge areas, exhibits and competitions are at their hub.

A place that is safe, welcoming, socially stimulating, fun and, let’s not forget, filled with a billion other worlds to explore, is a place no child can resist visiting…at least once. Even if the intention of spending time in the library has shifted for some kids, at least they are in a world of words and visual stimulation and therefore, possibilities. I’m a great believer in the power of osmosis by association, that environments can influence.”

quote about libraries by Sherri Matthews

In a comment on a Facebook post, memoirist Sherri Matthews wrote:

“Our library in our small, California town was the lifeblood for my young family. There, I involved my children in summer reading programmes throughout their school years – wonderfully fun & educational, just your kind of teaching Norah! -, pre-school story times, art & craft activities & music. I checked out books on everything from how to grow bareroot roses to anything about Tudor England. Also rented family videos & games. This was pre-internet in the 90’s of course, but a local library provides a timeless service that feeds the community no less importantly today, as Charli commented. Not to mention the best & free gatherings in town! I made long-term friendships with other moms, invaluable to me as the new kid on the block ???? What’s not to love!”

I am certain you have many fond memories of times spent in libraries also. Please share them in the comments.

If, as I do, you believe in the importance of libraries, books and reading, please consider joining in the campaigns in support of libraries and librarians that are being held across the globe.

students need school libraries


Next week, 16th of October 2018, sees the launch of the Australian campaign #StudentsNeedSchoolLibraries. In the online event scheduled for7 pm AEDT, a series of videos highlighting the importance of school libraries and their staff will be released. You are urged to watch on the Facebook page Students Need School Libraries and share the videos using #StudentsNeedSchoolLibraries.

You can find out more about the campaign on the Students Need School Libraries website.

Other resources about the importance of libraries, include this essay in pictures by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell.

In this article from the Guardian, Neil Gaiman explains why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.

Or if you prefer to watch and listen, you can do so here.

I previously shared my thoughts about the video here.

And a last word from Neil Gaiman,

Neil Gaiman quote about libraries

with a final quote from Morris Gleitzman, Australian Children’s Laureate.

Morris Gleitzman quote about libraries

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    If I had to do it over again, I’d get a Masters degree in Library Science instead of English Lit. Seriously, I love what Neil Gaiman says, and it’s true. My life opened and bloomed as soon as I discovered the library (around age 6. It made an enormous difference in my life, and I know, in the lives of millions. What a fabulous post, Norah.

    I knew you’d agree, Pam, and love what Neil Gaiman says as much as I do. I think English Lit would be a great stepping stone to Library Science. I would love to have done both. Children’s literature was part of my literacy studies and I enjoyed reading it very much – so many books I neither read nor had access to as a kid. Children these days have so many wonderful authors writing for them. Oh, to be a kid again and have all that reading time ahead. 🙂

    I agree. When I was a child I only had “Snow White” and “Cinderella” picture books. Then on to all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books. SO MANY MORE choices now.

    A very interesting post, Norah. I think libraries and real books are very important for children. I remember having 7 library cards when I was 10 years old. 4 were mine and 3 were my younger sister’s [Hayley couldn’t read yet]. I used to ride my bicycle to the library twice a week and take out 7 books. I read 14 books a week!

    Fourteen books a week is a lot of reading, Robbie. You did well. How wonderful to have the card of a little sister not yet reading to use as well. 🙂 I agree with you that libraries and real books are important for children, and all of us.

    I have heard different reports. Perhaps it depends on the state. I hope that your school libraries are not going the way some are attempting to make them go here.

    How sad is the world when libraries become part of cutbacks. They must have forgotten about the educational part of libraries, where children learn to read and rely on books they can’t otherwise afford. Thanks for this important message Norah. I’m happy to share and glad there’s a dedicated day for #StudentsNeedSchoolLibraries. 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing this important message, Debby. It is sad that some would put greed above education. Libraries play an important part in our (collective) education. Not everyone can own all the books they wish to read. We’d all need huge libraries for that.

    Norah, you a wonderful champion of libraries. It saddens me to think school libraries have come under scrutiny as financially draining. To me, the school library is the resource hub of a school. I still recall how much I loved mine and learning the Dewey Decimal System. Libraries in the US still seem vibrant and vital. Sherri’s memory is exactly how I think of our library system, and I involved my children in summer programs, too. This year, across the nation, the summer reading program theme was Libraries Rock. I created Wrangling Words to be a library program. It brings the 99-word flash fiction play to local libraries. I’ve had one Rough Writer join me in presenting Wrangling Words to a local group. I’d love to see more Rough Writers offer it in their hometown libraries.

    I’m so pleased to hear that libraries in the US are still vibrant and vital, Charli. Many of them here in Australia still are too but the situation in schools is not good. Teacher librarians do such an amazing job but receive little recognition. I sometimes wish I’d trained as a teacher librarian. I think it would be great to read stories to children all day. (:) as if)
    Your Wrangling Words program is a wonderful one to hold in libraries. There’s really no better place for them. I hope some other Rough Writers start sharing them in their own libraries too. Many people could benefit.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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