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Young people, reading and public libraries.

In Australia and New Zealand we are belatedly, perhaps, seeing an increasing political interest in the critical issue of how we develop young people who can read, and who seek to do so.

In Australia the federal government's primary interest at present is how reading is taught in schools, as demonstrated by the national inquiry into the 'teaching of reading'. However, as explained in the Friends of Australia (Fola) Bookstart report to the nation published in Aplis December 2004 pages 196-217, the teaching of reading needs to start long before children go to school. Public libraries have, and are already playing, a significant - if little recognized--role in that.

As public libraries have capitalised on minimising the digital divide in the community, so too do they now have an opportunity to demonstrate their contribution to literacy development for the whole of the 'cradle to the grave' community they uniquely serve.

Another of those very useful government sponsored research reports from the UK emphasises their actual and potential role. Creative reading: young people, reading and public libraries is a 65 page report available at It aims
 to focus attention on libraries as creative institutions
 and on the underplayed potential of their work with young
 readers ... (their) power to help achieve our national
 ambitions should not be underestimated.

The beginning of the introduction to Creative reading states

* Creativity is widely accepted as a major driver of economic growth and prosperity. It is also important in terms of realizing human potential. The importance of creativity in education is gaining currency

* Reading, though often perceived as passive and receptive, is a creative activity in itself, and frequently an important element in other creative processes

* Young people need to be equipped with high level reading skills to get the most out of cultural and social life and to meet the challenges of the twenty first century job market. Research shows that life chances are improved by reading. We need to go beyond literacy so that young people enjoy reading and cultivate a range of reading abilities

* Public libraries already play a vital role in nurturing reading, but they are forgotten players in the creativity debate and their potential is vastly underrated

* Libraries themselves need to recognize that they are part of the creative world, and to understand more filly the role that they can play in helping young people to be creative

* Libraries can offer creative spaces, activities and programs, but all libraries need to reach the standards of the best

* Harnessing the power of libraries to work with young people outside school, and forging better connections between schools and libraries are both needed in order to release young people's creativity

All of the above points are applicable to literacy, reading and public libraries in Australia and New Zealand, indeed anywhere. They can but help sustain the case in both of our countries for a better appreciation of--and better funding for--another critical role for public libraries in the 21st century.
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Article Details
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Author:Bundy, Alan
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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