Free books programme for families has 'rekindled love of reading' during lockdown

A programme which has seen hundreds of free books delivered to families in the Five Towns during lockdown is set to be expanded.

By David Spereall
Tuesday, 8th September 2020, 12:30 pm
Surveys suggest the amount of time people spent reading doubled during the early part of lockdown.
Surveys suggest the amount of time people spent reading doubled during the early part of lockdown.

Family board game rows, household cleaning and 1980s-style TV exercises were among the many things that made a comeback after Covid restrictions were imposed on the country.

But surveys suggest that reading, too, has become increasingly popular since late March.

However, with the closure of schools and libraries removing access to books for large numbers of children, local politicians and community volunteers collected reading materials donated by members of the public and handed them out to families in the area.

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Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper helped distribute free books to families in a bid to fill the void left by closed schools and libraries.

Such is the enthusiasm with which the scheme has been greeted, it's now likely to be extended further in the form of pop-up community library services, staffed by volunteers.

Airedale and Ferry Fryston councillor Kathy Scott, Pontefract councillor David Jones and local MP Yvette Cooper have all been involved in the scheme.

Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting last Thursday, Councillor Jones said: "Very early on in the pandemic, Kath and I, and others, became involved in book distribution networks based around our emergency food parcels work.

"We were able to collect surplus books, particularly children's ones, from our local libraries. We had hundreds of others donated form local residents.

"It was a very simple idea but it's really reawakened many people's interest in books, during this period of lockdown."

Councillor Jones said he knew of two local women had started their own community library service for their neighbourhood with the help of books donated by the public.

The council is now looking at supporting such services with a view to improving their reach during the school holidays.

Coun Jones added: "I know a number of small libraries have closed over the years, and I declare an interest in the fact the one in our community centre closed.

"But this raises an interesting potential project for us across the district, which I've discussed with library services, of launching some smaller kiosks people can access books from.

"I think we've set a nice target for us as an authority to run these kiosks over holiday periods and look at how we expand libraries."

Ms Cooper added: "When schools and libraries closed in the lockdown, I was really worried that children wouldn’t be able to get hold of books, and we know how incredibly important reading is for children’s education.

"I had also talked to many parents like me whose children are older now and who were clearing out old books and toys during lockdown so I thought we should link them together."

Local Democracy Reporting Service