‘Invest £100m in school libraries,’ Says Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell

In her final act as children's laureate, the How To Train Your Dragon author has called for a ringfenced fund for lasting impact.

Cressida Cowell

Children’s laureate and author Cressida Cowell has renewed a call for the government to invest £100m in primary school libraries, following the success of her Life-changing Libraries initiative, which has transformed six primary schools.

In her final act as laureate, Cowell says it is “ever more urgent to introduce a proper, lasting” library intervention, as new research shows school libraries help improve academic standards and foster a love of reading in children. She first made the call last year in an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

What is the Life-changing Libraries initiative?

In her three-year term as children’s laureate, Cowell’s flagship project oversaw bespoke and dedicated libraries set up in six primary schools across the country, each stocked with more than 1,000 specially curated books. The initiative also trained staff and saw specialist mentors help develop a culture of reading for pleasure.

Libraries are not statutory and one in eight primary schools have no library space at all, with a whole quarter of primary schools with a higher proportion of kids on free school meals not having access to an on-site library.

Cowell says she “wasn’t surprised at all” at the results of the project, having seen similar research dating back to 2002 that showed the value of schools having their own libraries.

Cowell, whose term as laureate ends this month, said: “I know how difficult it is nowadays to get a child reading for pleasure. The competition for children’s attention is tough, so you really need a school library.”

The library also helped parents in supporting their children’s reading journey. “The library became a space not only where you get books into the hands of children whose parents can’t afford them, but a space where parents can get involved in reading to their children,” Cowell said.

It might not be high on his list of priorities at the moment, but Boris Johnson last year received an open letter from Cowell asking for the funding, to build new libraries and restore neglected ones. The letter was signed by all the former children’s laureates, including Malorie Blackman, Michael Rosen, and Quentin Blake.

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