Saturday, November 15, 2008

Book Campaign widens aims

The Campaign for the Book, the initiative launched by author Alan Gibbons in support of school and public libraries, has broadened its aims to put children's reading for pleasure at the core of its activities.

The campaign was conceived to establish a regional network of authors, illustrators, teachers and librarians who could campaign locally against library cuts and closures. While that is still planned, Gibbons said: "We believe that the campaign can also have a more generalised impact on reading for pleasure."

The Campaign for the Book will focus on establishing national guidelines for best practice in areas such as teacher training in children's literature and reading workshops for children. A summer conference for 2009 is also planned to bring together educators, authors and government spokespeople.

"There are many good things happening around the country, but there are also regions where nothing is happening," said Gibbons. "We want to encourage government to be more energetic about best practice by showing how much difference it can make for children to actually meet authors and read books they enjoy, rather than this focus on tracking and testing their reading in schools." The campaign aims to encourage every major urban area to have a reading and writing roadshow where children can meet authors and illustrators.

Another key area for the campaign will be to increase the amount that local authorities dedicate to children's book ­budgets in libraries. "Any librarian or teacher will tell you that reading for pleasure starts with children choosing books for themselves," said Gibbons. Currently, just 2.5% of library budgets is dedicated to children's books with 25 local authorities spending 1% or less of their ­budget on children's books.

The Museums, Libraries & Archives Council and Campaign for the Book are in discussion to formulate a statement to put forward to culture secretary Andy Burnham to con­sider as part of the government's library review, stating that reading books should be a key element of the review. "Statements from ministers that describe libraries as ‘cultural marketplaces' or tell library users to ‘look beyond the book' are diluting the place of the book and I am very suspicious of that," Gibbons added.

Caroline Horn, The Bookseller 13.11.08

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