Building blocks for readers: Why EVERY child needs access to books

Published on: 03 November 2017 Author: Jake Hope

Writer and children's book consultant Jake Hope explains how simply giving children access to books can make all the difference.

Jake Hope

It might sound obvious, but I believe that one of the first steps in fostering a love of reading needs to be providing children with access to a range of books, stories and information that excites and engages them.

Too often, children are presented with the idea that reading is primarily about attainment in literacy, and this affects the types of reading material they are allowed; this can often demotivate young readers, removing both pleasure and passion from the activity.

For many, access to books is under threat, with increasing numbers of schools choosing not to have libraries and public libraries suffering cuts and closures. But the case for access to books speaks for itself - statistics show that 80% of children who read above the expected level for their age have books of their own.

What I propose is this: let's nurture an insatiable intrigue for 'what happens next', a love of language, and a desire to discover more about who we are and the world we live in.

Erika Meza illustration

How having your own books can make a difference

During her tenure as Children's Laureate, Anne Fine realised that ownership is crucial and set up the hugely successful My Home Library scheme. The premise was simple: to encourage children and young people to browse, borrow and buy books – from libraries, swapping with friends and delving into second-hand and new bookshops to build their own treasure troves of much-loved favourites, based around choice and personal tastes. The site provides a dazzling array of beautifully illustrated bookplates for children to print out and use, creating a sense of ownership.

A similar idea forms the backbone for BookTrust's Letterbox Club. This brilliant scheme provides children who are looked after with parcels of books. Having a sense of ownership and familiarity in these collections can be reassuring and even a lifeline during times of great change in their lives.

Libraries are crucial

Equally important as developing personal libraries is having access to books in schools. The BookTrust School Library Pack addresses this by providing free packs of books to secondary school libraries every year. These collections are specially selected to encourage branching out and a widening of horizons. Schools use them for reading groups, to stimulate discussions, and to build creative and social opportunities around reading, ensuring it is a lively and vibrant activity that young people want to participate in.

Boys reading

Public libraries can also be fantastic havens, offering a range of different books to suit all ages and ability levels. They also offer a range of lively activities, including storytimes, reading groups, specially devised schemes to encourage children to read more and more widely, and all manner of events with authors, illustrators, storytellers and more!

Creating book ecosystems

By supporting children in their interests and helping them to discover pathways through their interests, we're able to make sure that reading is relevant and reflects their lives. Access to books, guidance and support, which still allows time and space for personal choice, is a key part of this.

Although there might be challenges to some of the ways books are available, if we can build 'ecosystems' with a variety of different book-based habitats – home libraries, school libraries, public libraries, bookshops, swapping opportunities – we can make sure reading is both vibrant and visible, and encourage all children to be readers.

You might also like

The magic of libraries

Why we all need them

Author Joseph Coelho mounts a passionate defence of libraries and explains how they really help our communities in a number of ways.

The power of funny books

How they can help reluctant readers

Author Pamela Butchart recommends some hilarious stories that even children who don't like reading will be unable to resist.


Find your next book

Use the Bookfinder to find the perfect book for you, your family and friends.