WITH thousands upon thousands of books to choose from, Oxfordshire libraries could play a key role in the campaign to get children reading.
The county’s library service is among the organisations which is supporting Oxfordshire County Council’s Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, run by the National Literacy Trust and backed by the Oxford Mail.
While the reading work with the children most in need of help will take place using specific texts in school, the second goal of the campaign, to foster a lifelong love of reading, could take place anywhere.
And libraries and the skilled staff who work in them are perfectly placed to help ignite enthusiasm for books.
Lead librarian Anna Cotsell said she was excited about being involved in the campaign.
She said: “Through our work with children, families and schools, Oxfordshire libraries help promote a culture of reading and a love of books in many different ways.
“We provide a wide range of books to cater for all ages and abilities and run a variety of reading development activities aimed at children and their families.”
A mobile children’s library visits primary schools, while librarians also arrange class visits, tailored to the age of the children, to libraries and in schools for youngsters of all ages.
With their stock of everything from picture books to novels, from science-fiction to non-fiction, libraries can help provide the kind of material that will get children who don’t normally read for fun interested and intrigued.
Miss Cotsell said: “Our job as librarians is to open children’s eyes to the range of different books available and to encourage them to try new authors and titles they may not have come across before.
“We take great pleasure in finding books that provide the spark – the motivation that encourages children to want to continue reading.
“Once children are hooked on the reading habit, our role is to keep them interested by providing support, encouragement and exciting and appealing reads.”
She said it was vital to first determine each child’s interests and to engage with families to ensure they knew the role they had to play in supporting children’s reading.
Miss Cotsell said: “This is something we have always tried to do through activities designed to get parents and their children sharing books together.
“I think the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign will provide many more opportunities to do this.
“I am excited about the prospect of working with schools and families to support and encourage children, and help them develop a love of books and reading.
“By working with partners and developing and building upon what we already offer, I believe we can have a real impact upon children’s literacy and educational attainment in a way that is fun and enjoyable for the child.”
There are 43 libraries across Oxfordshire, which are free to join.
Children can borrow up to 20 books for three weeks, along with audio books, CDs and DVDs.
And there is no charge to reserve books on a children’s library card, and no overdue charges for children under five and other target groups.