Laureate fears over decline in libraries

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CHILDREN’S LAUREATE Chris Riddell has said a drop in the number of younger children visiting libraries is of “great concern”, in a hand-drawn statement responding to new Government figures.

The findings, part of a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) report into children’s activities, reveal a 26 per cent decline in the number of five to 10-year-olds who had used a library in the past seven days.

In 2010, 18.7 per cent children aged five to 10 had done so, compared to 13.8 per cent in 2014.

Within that age group, the number who had made a trip to their library at some point over the past 12 months had decreased from 76.4% in 2010 to 67.7 per cent in 2014.

Mr Riddell, a writer and illustrator, said: “A drop in younger children visiting libraries is of great concern.

“As children’s laureate, I am passionate about the role of libraries, both in schools and in the wider community. They are unique places where children can begin their journey as readers, as well as being creative hubs.

“Some of my favourite events have taken place in libraries, and over the next two years I intend to visit as many libraries as I can.”

He added that he supported The Reading Agency’s summer reading challenge, which encourages children aged four to 11 to read six books over the course of the school holidays.

There was a smaller drop in the number of five to 15-year-olds who had used a library in the past week, down six per cent, and a seven per cent decrease in those who had done so at least once in the year.

But the number of 11 to 15 year-olds who had visited a library in the past week had gone up 15 per cent. This is despite a one per cent fall in the numbers who had visited in the past year. The apparent decline in interest in libraries comes despite an overall increase in the number of libraries, including those transformed from public libraries by community and volunteer groups.

There are 3,450 libraries in England, according to the most recent figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, up two per cent from 2010.

But Diana Gerald, chief executive of reading charity Book Trust, said the figures were “amazing”.

She said: “Over recent years children’s use of libraries has been consistently high, and even with all the other modern attractions libraries are still visited by 70 per cent of under-15s - that’s quite amazing.”