Renowned Authors Unite to Advocate for Mandatory School Libraries in the UK

LONDON, UK – Acclaimed British author Philip Pullman has teamed up with fellow children’s writers Michael Morpurgo and Julia Donaldson to advocate for the presence of libraries in all schools in Britain. In a collective call to the government, the trio emphasized the importance of legal protection and status for school libraries at every level of education. Pullman argued that school libraries are crucial for enhancing children’s reading abilities and fostering a love for literature.

Pullman further criticized the downgrading of school libraries into mere “information centers” focused on technology rather than books. Donaldson echoed this sentiment in a recent BBC Radio 4 program on the reading crisis among British children, where she argued that school libraries should be included in Ofsted evaluations or enforced by law. Data from last year revealed a decline in the number of secondary schools with libraries, and approximately 14% of primary schools reported having no library.

The renowned authors’ plea for school libraries comes as new research from Manchester University demonstrates the importance of comics and graphic novels as an introduction to books. The study highlighted that reading enjoyment among children doubled when exposed to comics and graphic novels. As part of a pilot project funded by Comic Art Europe and commissioned by the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, Pullman’s comic series called “The Phoenix” was distributed to schoolchildren in north Manchester. The intervention group showed increased interest in reading, contrasting with the comparison group.

Pullman stressed the significance of a school library as a space that contains diverse books on every subject, not limited to those required for exams. He recalled withholding an American poetry anthology from his school’s librarian in Wales out of concern that she might be offended by Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.” Despite advocating for action to then-education secretary Michael Gove, Pullman received no significant response.

The authors’ collaborative campaign aligns with a National Literacy Trust report highlighting that over 56% of eight to 18-year-olds in the UK do not enjoy reading in their free time, particularly among children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Pullman concluded by emphasizing that the library should be the heart and soul of every school, a treasure chamber essential for fostering curiosity, joy, and pride among students.