In the eighties, Stockport Schools Libraries ran a highly successful Book Club, in association with the area’s primary schools. Children were given a printed leaflet of book titles, went to their local library – how tragic that so many are closing – and chose a book from the list. When they had read ten books and written a very short review or drawn a picture on an official form, followed by a chat about it with either their class teacher or their local librarian, they were awarded a bronze badge. After twenty-five books it was silver, and after fifty, they struck gold! All gold badge winners were presented with their badge and certificate by the Chief Librarian at a school assembly, and photos of the event often appeared in the local paper.
My nine-year-old son was galvanised by the Book Club and began devouring books. His six-year-old brother, not to be outdone, soon followed suit. What a pleasure it was to eavesdrop occasionally as they chatted with one another and with friends about books they had all read. One gem I remember was: ‘Nah! didn’t really like that one ‘cos, you know, the lock on that treasure chest would definitely’ve been corroded by then and they could never’ve opened it, just with the key they found!’ My sons are now both in their thirties and remain avid readers of fiction.
I understand that now the Library Club has evolved into the equally successful ‘Reading for Gold’ club, at which children meet once a week to choose a book, and come back the following week for a ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’- style session of chat and quizzes, with special visits from authors, storytellers and poets.
Initiatives such as this are vital to nurture the reading habit. I have just read about the Department for Education’s plan for a national reading competition in the autumn for children in the last three years of primary school and first year of secondary school. There will be local, regional and national prizes for children who can read the most books. The Department for Education is considering bids to design and deliver the competition, and will make a further announcement later.
Based on my own experience, I’m totally in favour of such a plan and hope that librarians and libraries will be fully involved – and that there will not be any further closures.