According to research carried out by the United Nations in 2000, there are over 7 million illiterate adults in the U.K. Studies indicate that a vast proportion of illiterate adults come from ethnic backgrounds where their first language is not English and they have missed out on formal education.
Local libraries, in conjunction with local authority services and local education groups increasingly target those in this position in order to offer them informal training and classes centred on the acquisition of valuable skills such as reading, writing and basic computer skills. Once they have these skills they are better able to actively participate in local society and integrate into the community more effectively.
The library aims to act as a focal point in the community with the aim of improving literacy by implementing initiatives such as adult reading classes, classes for children’s parents and carers and computer skills courses.
By reaching out to as many groups as possible in society, it is hoped that each individual will be able to make the most of their potential and subsequently enjoy the opportunities that will arise from gaining these valuable skills; these include skilled employment and further learning for example.
The library is designed to be a place where people feel able to address their concerns, often the inability to read or write, without feeling that they may be judged. Librarians are receiving increased training to deal with this kind of situation as well as their more traditional role.
Once the subject of illiteracy has been approached the library is able to recommend suitable classes and can arrange support for the individual by liaising with local education services.
Early Years Literacy
Early years literacy is also fundamental to the growth and development of children and the library can be instrumental to children’s enjoyment of reading and learning.
Local libraries often run schemes and activities such as story time or book hour in order to encourage children to want to read more as well as offering parents the opportunity to borrow books for free as it can be expensive to buy new books.
Research shows that children with a high level of literacy are more likely to be happy and confident when dealing with schoolwork throughout their educational lives and those who read often are likely to acquire higher levels of general knowledge, a more extensive vocabulary and a greater ability to analyse, evaluate and form opinions.
In addition to this, reading can also stimulate the imagination and can provide a welcome escape from the routine of daily life whilst still being educational.