Libraries Week 3 -9 October 2022: New poll reveals parental support for primary school libraries

07 October 2022

This Libraries Week, we have been working with national charity Parentkind on a poll to determine parents’ views on their children’s primary school library provision and their involvement in it.

School libraries are a key tool to help inspire a love of reading among children, which can significantly impact pupil attainment across the curriculum. We know that when parents are involved in their child’s reading journey, regardless of their own literacy levels, it can be a great predictor of pupil success in school and beyond. Therefore, those with a parenting role have an important voice on the issue of providing and maintaining primary school libraries.

Parentkind surveys parents on key educational issues to help give parents this voice in education. They polled parents for us and significantly, the results show that parents overwhelmingly agree that every primary school should have a library.

This indicates widespread parental support for primary school library provision, and yet half the parents surveyed parents find themselves without access to their child’s school library to help them choose books themselves, but would like to.

There are many different approaches that schools can take to help engage parents in their library and reading for pleasure culture, including

- Regular Breakfast Book Clubs

- Book ‘wheelbarrows’ or ‘wagons’ in the playground after school

- Pre-loved book swaps

These initiatives can show parents the variety of books a school has to offer and can emphasise the value of choosing books and reading together as a family. Pre-loved book swaps are a way for children to own several books, as well as borrowing from the school library.

Given the increasing pressure on school budgets, it can be a real challenge for schools to maintain an up-to-date library space. Our poll found that 1 in 8 parents said that their child’s primary school did not have a library or dedicated reading space with books that children can choose and borrow in addition to any reading scheme books.

1 in 5 parents polled also said that they were unhappy with the range of books at their child’s school. Getting parents involved with stock selection is a positive way to increase their engagement with school libraries but also for diversifying the range of children’s literature available. With less than 8% of current children’s fiction featuring characters from ethnic minority backgrounds, the need and demand for diverse and up to date library stock is pressing. Suggestion boxes where parents can visit the library at assigned times is one way to do this.

It is clear from the poll findings that parents have an important voice when it comes to supporting the provision and improvement of school libraries. PTAs can play a crucial role in fundraising to establish and maintain a library, and in campaigning for a library in those schools where there is no such designated space.

The poll also revealed that almost every parent surveyed had access to a public library with children’s books in their local area. This is really positive and demonstrates the potential of strong school and library links; pupils and parents can see first-hand the huge range of titles libraries can hold and the author events and activities they can put on to help meet the interests of any child, and solidify a love of reading and positive associations with libraries.

There is still work to be done to support primary schools to establish libraries and involve parents at each stage of the process, in order to give every child the best chance of achievement and future success. However, the evidence from our new poll with Parentkind affirms that parental participation in their child’s reading journey is a crucial factor not just in increasing and improving primary school library provision, but also for supporting a vibrant, inspiring reading for pleasure culture in the next generation.

View the full poll results here.

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