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  • Michelle Boshoff

Why Libraries are still relevant.

When was the last time you were in a library? Was it while you were at school? Or do you regularly go to your public library? With technology having a significant impact on our day to day life you would be surprised to hear that people are starting to wonder whether or not a library, in particular, a school library is still needed. It has been proven that children who read, perform better in school but most primary schools in the UK are closing their libraries and replacing it with an ICT Suite. Don't get me wrong, there is a need for learning how to use technology but should it replace a good old-fashioned library? My answer to this questions is no; it should not. 

In a Blog written for the Guardian, it has been argued that a well managed, valued and welcoming library is needed to teach valuable skills. For many kids in primary schools, they are just starting on their educational journey so it is therefore essential that they have the right resources to help them along the way. Having a well-functioning library where kids can feel safe and supported is integral to helping them learn necessary literacy skills. It also gives them an inviting space where they can learn new things and have their imagination take flight. 

Growing up in the UK it is hard to think that people do not have access to a library. Most towns, villages, and cities have at least one library, and there is a strong reading culture across the whole of the UK. In South Africa however, many kids have limited, or no access to libraries and this is because of two reasons. A lack of infrastructure and inadequate management of funds. In a report published by UNICEF in 2009, it showed that 53% of schools in South Africa are non-fee paying schools. Which means they are entirely depended on government funding; this often means that schools in rural and more deprived areas don't always get all the funding they are entitled to because of something as simple as lack of internet or distance from a major city where they can get the help they need. There are many other reasons why rural and informal settlement schools struggle with funding, and it is long and complicated, something for another day.  Access to books and reading materials from an early age gives any country an excellent platform to prepare their children and to ensure the country has a high literacy rate. Taking away libraries, especially in a country where they are few and far between in rural areas, puts future generations on the back foot. The International Future Foundation together with The Future Foundation South Africa works with schools to help improve literacy in rural and more deprived areas. We host Reading Clubs where we encourage students not just to read a book, but actively discuss the book with their peers. We will be launching a Library renovation project this year where we are hoping to breath new life into a primary school library and encourage the next generation to discover the wonders of reading.  

"Be a lifelong student, read as many books as possible."  - Nelson Mandela 

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