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Fewer young children visiting libraries

Published 24/07/2015

The apparent decline in interest in libraries comes despite an overall increase in the number of libraries
The apparent decline in interest in libraries comes despite an overall increase in the number of libraries
The apparent decline in interest in libraries comes despite an overall increase in the number of libraries

The number of young children visiting libraries has plummeted over the past five years, government figures show.

The findings, part of a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) report into children's activities, reveal a 26% decline in the number of five to 10-year-olds who had used a library in the past seven days.

In 2010, 18.7% children aged five to 10 had done so, compared to 13.8% in 2014.

Within that age group, the number who had made a trip to their library at some point over the past 12 months had decreased from 76.4% in 2010 to 67.7% in 2014.

There was a smaller drop in the number of five to 15-year-olds who had used a library in the past week, down 6%, and a 7% decrease in those who had done so at least once in the year.

But the number of 11 to 15 year-olds who had visited a library in the past week had gone up 15%. This is despite a 1% fall in the numbers who had visited in the past year.

The apparent decline in interest in libraries comes despite an overall increase in the number of libraries, including those transformed from public libraries by community and volunteer groups.

There are 3,450 libraries in England, according to the most recent figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, up 2% from 2010.

But Diana Gerald, chief executive of reading charity Book Trust, said the figures were "amazing".

She said : "Over recent years children's use of libraries has been consistently high, and even with all the other modern attractions libraries are still visited by 70% of under-15s - that's quite amazing.

"In these austere times, libraries have never been more important as a way for every child to access books and reading.

"Book Trust research shows that reading helps close the poverty gap and is actually more important for a child's educational success than their family's socio-economic status. Well-resourced libraries remain a gateway to equality of educational achievement and an affordable source of great pleasure. All children should have easy access to a library."

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