World Literacy Day: The world has dramatically changed due to technology, pushed forward even more by the pandemic. But it is especially in today’s world that we need libraries, and they need to stop being silent.
What is the usual picture that comes to mind when one hears the word ‘library’? Is it a room full of books all categorised and labelled stacks after stacks and a pin-drop silence?
While this is the dominant idea of library and has its own value and importance, let’s create a different visualisation visualise a community space, with book displays containing books and materials for different age groups, genres and languages.
This is a space where people come, pick up something to read and have discussions over it, where children are encouraged to read on their own as well as in groups and then have reading exercises, where parents and caregivers are provided with books and literature for them to read for themselves but also to read to children.
They are supported in reading strategies through demonstrations on how to read to their child and how to narrate a story to a child.
In this visualisation, a library is anything but silent — it is a hot melting pot of conversations, connections, and discussions these are equally important to help develop literacy and language skills needed by children to live in the modern world.
These spaces are also needed today with the fast-depleting human connect amidst the digital lifestyle. The human touch is vital to the survival of humanity and life.
NEED TO STRENGTHEN EDUCATION AS A PUBLIC ENDEAVOUR
The report ‘Reimagining our futures together a new social contract for education’ published in 2021 by the International Commission on the Futures of Education begins with raising concerns on the impact of pandemic, increased global crisis situations like wars, climate change on humanity and the need for education to serve as a key engine for helping the humankind survive these.
It states that in these critical times, education needs to be reimagined as a new social contract, and this reimagination must focus a lot on working towards creating a future which is shared and interdependent.
One of the two foundational principles in the report for this new social contract is “strengthening education as a public endeavour and a common good”.
While defining this, it is rightly pointed out at that it does not limit to education being a public-funded entity but goes on to also include a commitment from the society to include everyone in public discussions about education.
Going back to the visualisation of the community library, if we have these kinds of community libraries and school libraries, these will bring the communities together in creating that shared public vision on education and bring in the much-needed cohesiveness in the community.
This goes a very long way in helping education to serve its role in driving the humanity to safer space by helping the empowerment of the youth in creating a world which is sustainable.
COMMUNITY LIBRARIES HELP IN DEVELOPING LITERACY SKILLS
The realisation of the community libraries visualised above does not stop there. It also helps children in developing their literacy skills.
This is because acquiring literacy skills in a manner that the children don’t only learn to read but also develop a habit and love for reading, calls for availability of good quality children’s literature in multiple languages, diverse genres and a culture of reading around them, and when the parents are supported in strategies of reading to their children.
These kinds of school and community libraries not only develop a keen interest of reading in children, but also prove to help develop stronger intergenerational relationships.
WHY READING IS IMPORTANT
In present times, with the ever-increasing screen addiction in children resulting in many physical as well as psychosocial issues like increased anxiety, behavioural problems, increase in toxic stress, it becomes important that they are taken back to the world of books.
Evidence suggests that reading and writing helps in development of the brain.
One can also understand this by noting that when a person is reading a book or a picture, the brain plays a more active role by connecting what is being read with the past experience and making a new knowledge for itself.
However, when digital content is viewed, imagination, analysis and other higher skills are used less as the brain is processing less information and is relatively absorbing the content rather passively.
To develop this interest in books, a culture of reading must be developed and carefully planned reading exercises need to be curated.
As library programmes have benefits ranging from developing literacy skills in children to helping society develop into more cohesive and cooperative society, it becomes very important that we have more active vibrant and functional libraries at the schools as well as at community spaces.