‘Cast off the shackles of yesterday! Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!’
Marching on Parliament has long been the way in which members of society air their grievances to government in an effort to enlighten, bring change and share feelings of camaraderie. A hundred years ago, the Suffragette movement were turning to more militant tactics, chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows and using every possible method to try and force Prime Minister Asquith into enfranchising the female electorate. Of course it was not until women were able to prove their social worth with their contribution to the war effort of 1914-18 that they were taken seriously and given a political voice – but that is a story for another day…
Today I am urging you to roll up your petticoats and march into the fray on behalf of libraries in schools. “What?!” I hear you asking, “How can you compare stocking paperbacks in classrooms to giving the vote to women? –That’s ludicrous!” As Mr Banks says – “What’s all this?”
Back then, the vote was more than simply ticking a box. The vote was a signal of empowerment, of freedom and of individual worth. And here is where we come to libraries in schools. If you can read, and if you enjoy it you are more likely to succeed at school, to have financial freedom, to go to University, find a job, and contribute to society. I should make it clear that I am in no way advocating reading ability as the only benchmark of academic success, indeed 50% of NASA employees are dyslexic. They are sought after because of their superb problem solving skills and excellent spatial awareness not for their reading level. If anything I am advocating the opposite. We should not be judging children on their ability to decipher within the context of a classroom but encouraging their interest in life, their imagination, their enthusiasm for innovation and exploration. And where better to encourage that enthusiasm than the library?
But not all schools have libraries. It is statutory law that every prison has one, but for schools, it’s optional. One study recently found that the recidivism rate for prisoners dropped from a 90% likelihood to 10% (yes. 10%!) if the prisoner was found work. And how did they find work? Literacy and education!
Political equality and equal rights for all!
I wonder why we are waiting for children to make their way out of schools and into prisons before giving them the tools to educate themselves. In the UK 70% of pupils permanently excluded from school have difficulties in basic literacy, and that translates to 60-80% of the prison population. There is an argument, that if these prisoners had been more successful in school, they would not be in prison. Reading is not just about fluency – being literate means higher self-esteem, self-motivation and ambition. It means jobs and security and a way out of poverty, social isolation, and trouble.
From Kensington to Billingsgate, One hears the restless Cries! From ev’ry corner of the land: LIBRARIES ARISE!
100 years ago women were marching on Parliament to demand the freedom to make themselves heard, they wanted independence and education. Today we need to carry on the fight for their great-great grandchildren, we need to shout and wave banners and sing at the top of our lungs. No more “pie-crust promises”. Give our children books! Give them the chance to explore and read and educate themselves. Books are a way of saying to children, “we trust you – go off and open a book and go it alone. Not together, reading aloud. In a corner, under a desk, up a tree.” A book is freedom and it is power. So cast off those shackles, and into the fray – votes for Libraries step in time!
Now it’s up to you. Write to your local MP urging them to sign their name to this parliamentary petition. Or tweet, or blog using the slideshow (below) – put your MP’s name in the title of your post or tweet, tag them if you can t0 get their full attention!
Thank you in advance for helping out with this effort. In the meantime, enjoy this!
PS. Please do not chain yourself to anything. Peaceful protest only.