14 December 2009

- Public libraries see revival as partnerships increase with primary schools and Early Years Centres -

School Minister Vernon Coaker today welcomed new research that shows Government investment in books has led to more boys at primary schools reading for enjoyment and improving their reading skills.

The research also highlights how younger children are getting off to a flying starting by discovering the pleasure of storytelling and sharing books.

As part of the National Year of Reading last year, the Government launched two programmes aimed at encouraging more young people into reading for pleasure, targeted at boys aged 5-11 and all children aged 3-5.

It also aimed to strengthen the partnership between primary schools, early years settings and public library services in England, with almost a million new books purchased as part of the £10 million investment.

The evaluation, carried out by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), also show that:

- around 330,000 boys aged 5 to 11 were involved in activities as part of the Boys into Books campaign including reading groups, storytelling sessions and library visits;

- over 1,100 primary schools and 2,600 Early Years Centres have established new links with their local library for the first time, leading to a sharp increase in visits to libraries outside school hours;

- as part of the Book Ahead programme, children aged 3-5 took part in over 4,500 storytelling session, 5,400 nursery rhyme time sessions and 1,600 book talks;

- positive improvements in literacy, listening and communication skills were made linked to the Boys into Books and books Ahead programmes.

Speaking at a visit to Brompton Road Library, London, where he joined boys from St Cuthbert with St Matthias primary schools in a reading group, Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said:

"It's great to see that both the Boys into Books and Books Ahead programmes have had such success in helping young people fall in love with reading.

"Getting children into reading books at an early age is crucial. There's clear evidence that the number of words a child hears by the age of four and their early engagement with reading, are closely linked with later attainment at school.

"We also know that boys lag behind girls all over the English speaking world, especially in reading and writing, more so for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Whilst a huge amount has been done to close the gap, there is always more we can do to get every child up to speed.

"That's why we are working to narrow the reading gaps from a younger age. The million new books distributed through these programme have made a real difference - and not just in the short term. They have led to a real change, reviving local libraries through partnerships with their early years settings and primary schools in their area.

"Together with Sure Start Children's Centres and early years learning through play; increasing one to one tuition; supporting low performing primary schools; and filling the curriculum with topics and books that boys find interesting, we're continuing to drive up standards."

Minister for Culture and Tourism Margaret Hodge said:

"Reading for pleasure is something that can comfort, delight and excite at every stage as we go through life. And reading to gain knowledge is quite simply a fundamental element in coping successfully with the world around us. So partnerships and projects like this are a brilliant way of helping children get started and gain something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives."

Roy Clare CBE, Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) said:

"Boys into Books has shown what can be achieved when libraries work in partnership with schools. Library staff have willingly shared their enthusiasm and skill in promoting reading for enjoyment to boys and the results are very positive.

"The MLA would urge local authority Children's Services to encourage the partnerships forged in both these programmes so that these findings can be replicated and more children encouraged to discover the magic of reading."

Editor's Notes

This press notice relates to 'England'

1. The two research reports can be found at http://www.mla.gov.uk/what/programmes/Books_to_children/boys_into_books and http://www.mla.gov.uk/what/programmes/Books_to_children/book_ahead.

2. The £5 million scheme, Primary Boys into Books, expands the programme launched by Ministers last year for boys aged 11-14. Public libraries select free books from the list drawn up by the School Library Association, and deliver book boxes to schools in their local area. This is the first time DCSF has funded public libraries and school libraries to work together to improve services for children. The programmes would not have been possible without the support of DCMS and the MLA.

3. The Book Ahead programme, aimed at building stronger links between public libraries and Early Years centres saw more than 130,000 young children take part in activities. Partnerships were forged between libraries and over 16,000 Early Years centres - half of these being new.

4. The latest statistics show that boys are on average 7 percentage points behind girls in reading at Key Stage 2.

5. Research shows that a child from a deprived home has heard on average just 13 million words by the age of four, compared to 45 million in a more affluent home. Experts says that what starts as a problem with vocabulary rapidly turns into a problem with reading, writing and comprehension, leading to poor exam results.

6. The MLA is the government's agency for museums, libraries and archives. Leading strategically, we promote best practice to inspire innovative, interfrated and sustainable services for all. Visit http://www.mla.gov.uk.

Contact Details

Public Enquiries 0870 000 2288, info@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

Press Notice 2009/0249