The National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House launch a review into national primary school library provision

The National Literacy Trust, supported by Penguin Random House UK, has launched a nationwide review of primary school library provision, including a call to evidence to gather perspectives from key stakeholders who work in education as well as directly from families. The project will look at how COVID-19 has impacted primary school libraries and imagines the future of library provision in the primary sector.

Primary school libraries are a critical part of the school learning environment, providing not only access to a diverse range of books and resources but also to a quiet and safe place to read. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, school libraries were under pressure, with 1 in 10 primary and secondary schools in the UK not having a library at all.

Library provision also varies significantly across the country, with schools in more disadvantaged communities less likely to have good library provision. Schools with a higher proportion of children eligible for free school meals are more than twice as likely not to have a designated library space onsite.

Nearly 2 in 3 (63%) of UK primary and secondary students use their school library – and children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely than their better-off peers to use the service. COVID-19 and the necessary closure of schools and libraries is likely to have a detrimental impact on pupils that rely on these spaces and resources.

This review follows the expansion of Puffin World of Stories, an award-winning collaboration between Penguin Random House UK and the National Literacy Trust which has reached 225 schools over the last three years with nearly 80,000 books donated. The programme aims to offer practical solutions to some of the challenges facing reading for pleasure in schools where budget constraints often mean investing in school libraries is not an option. Schools receive bespoke training, hundreds of free books and colourful resources to help bring their reading spaces to life. Author and actor Nathan Bryon was announced as the first Puffin World of Stories ambassador last month.

Jonathan Douglas CBE, CEO of the National Literacy Trust said: “We are proud to be launching this important piece of work and are looking forward to seeing the submissions. This is an opportunity for the sector and families to come together to review what a good primary school library provision would look like and what steps are needed to get there.

“Primary school libraries are a key element in the academic recovery of children following the three national lockdowns. There is no greater time to be collating evidence of their fundamental importance as we try and support the youngest generation’s learning and literacy.”

Francesca Dow, Managing Director of ‎Penguin Random House Children’s said: “Every child should have the opportunity to discover the magic of reading in school, and yet we know that library provision in primary schools is patchy – despite so many teachers and librarians’ best efforts. By funding this vital review of the role of primary school libraries, we hope to show how important libraries and reading for pleasure will be to our post-COVID national recovery.”

The call for evidence is targeted at librarians, teachers, schools, organisations and charities within the education space and organisations working with libraries and will be open until June 25th.

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