Cressida Cowell's Life-changing Libraries campaign

Primary Times chats with Cressida Cowell, bestselling author of How To Train Your Dragon, about her Life-changing Libraries campaign and the effect it has had on children so far.

Cressida Cowell, the Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2019-2022 and bestselling author, launched the Life-changing Libraries campaign last year. The campaign aims to place primary school libraries at the heart of the government’s yearly investments after it highlighted a severe long-term underfunding. Primary Times caught up with Cressida to understand the importance of libraries, and to see the impact that the campaign has made so far.

“The benefits of engaging with books and becoming a reader for pleasure are life-changing,” Cressida explains. “Decades of research show a reader for pleasure is more likely to be happier, healthier, to do better at school, and to vote – all irrespective of background.

The more a child reads, the greater the benefits. And that is where libraries come in. Libraries are where the magic happens. They are like sweetshops where all the sweets are FREE. When I was a child in the 1970’s, we went to the public library once a week, that was the norm back then, and I must have read practically every single book in that entire library. It allows a child to experiment, find out what they like. I was convinced then about the importance of libraries – both local and school libraries – and I’m more convinced than ever of their magical power to create life-long readers.

“The project spotlights the four pillars of a successful school library – space, book provision, expertise, and whole-school and parent involvement – through the creation of ‘pilot’ libraries in six very different primary schools.

It has been extraordinary to see how these beautiful new spaces, since opening last June, have become the beating heart of these six schools, encouraging the development of wellbeing, empathy, learning and a whole school reading culture.

“What has been clear from the reaction to the campaign is that people assume that all primary schools have libraries, and that those are well-stocked and resourced. But, this is simply not the case.

One in eight primary yours schools has no library provision? I’ve been struck by how many people are surprised that we even need to make this ask. O en, people know that reading for pleasure is important, but don’t know quite how life-changing it is. Reading opens up a world of new possibilities for children and develops aspiration, with research showing that it can drive social mobility and mitigate the effect of social inequality. But, how can a child become a reader for pleasure if their parents or carers cannot afford books, and their primary school has no library, or that library is woefully insufficient?

“We are nearing the end of these year-long pilots and will be sharing our findings in June – but the words of a young boy in Griffin primary school, where we introduced a new ‘Life- changing Library’ keep returning to me. When asked, ‘What does this library mean to you?’, his reply was: ‘Well, it means I don’t have to read the same book, again and again and again.’”

 

Listen to Cressida Cowell introduce Life-changing Libraries

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