The Bookseller Children’s Conference

Guest post by Jo Clarke @bookloverJo and www.bookloverjo.wordpress.com

At this year’s The Bookseller Children’s Conference, Maz Evans (author and founder of BookBuddy) shouted from the rooftops about the importance of children having access to books.

Enjoyment of books has a greater impact on a child’s educational success than their socio-economic background, according to a government report. Yet shockingly 1 in 8 disadvantaged children don’t own a book, according to the National Literacy Trust.

But Maz says not to worry, we have public libraries for children to borrow books from, oh small problem there as these are closing at an alarming rate (105 last year) with even more at risk.

I have a house full of books and still we use the public library every week because I can’t keep up with my children’s voracious reading demands. We’re very lucky, despite living in a tiny town we have our own library this isn’t the case for everyone.

Growing up there was little spare money for books but every week I went to the public library, sadly that library no longer exists.

Well if children can’t access a public library at least they can use their school library. Again sadly not true! While there is a statutory obligation for prisons to have a library, unfortunately the same isn’t true for schools.

No matter how many times I hear this fact it still shocks me and I hope that it sent a ripple of shock around the school.

Schools are facing huge challenges with budget cuts, not all schools have librarians or libraries and even those that do are struggling.

Maz discovered when visiting schools that a lot of them are desperate for books and that’s why BookBuddy was founded.

I am fortunate to work as a school librarian in a school with sufficient books because we subscribe to the School Library Service and I’m able to top up this selection with books that I donate, you could say that I act as my own schools Book Buddy.

I’m lucky enough to be sent stacks of books from publishers because I have my own book blog, I’ve won hundreds through competitions on Twitter and I have local businesses who sponsor library books. Not all schools are this fortunate and we’re the exception rather than the rule.

Maz says while there has been an overwhelming positive response there has been some backlash in the publishing industry who feel that it’s not their problem and is concerned that it would have an impact on author royalties. For every push back Maz had an answer and she strongly advocated that with so many influential tweachers (teachers who tweet) with large twitter following publishers could be missing a trick by not engaging with them.

If they worked together this would be a brilliant avenue to promote books and authors. She strongly pushed the point that If we want our children to thrive then we have a responsibility to ensure they can access books on an equal playing field.

Eloquent and fierce I think Maz brilliantly explained the need to support the wonderful Book Buddy scheme.

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