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School libraries: Why children and young people use them or not, their literacy engagement and mental wellbeing

Added 19 Dec 2018 | Updated 11 May 20

Our findings show that:

  • Nearly 2 in 3 (63.2%) children and young people say they use their school library, while nearly 1 in 3 (32.9%) say they don’t. 3.9% of children and young people told us they don’t have a school library.
  • This percentage is down slightly from 2016, when 67.1% of children and young people said that they use their school library.
  • Children and young people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds and young people aged 14 to 16 are less likely to use their school library compared with their more advantaged and younger peers.
  • The most common reason for children and young people to use the library was access to interesting reading materials, followed by the library being a friendly and relaxing space, and because it has computers.
  • Conversely, the main reason for not using the library was that it doesn’t have interesting reading materials. Other common reasons for not using the library were friends not going and the perception of the library as a space for younger pupils.
  • Our literacy engagement variable (a composite of all of our reading and writing variables with a maximum score of 52) was also linked with library use. The data show that around 73% of the children and young people who use the school library have higher literacy engagement scores than the average child who doesn’t use the school library.
  • We also used our new mental wellbeing index (which combines life satisfaction, coping skills and self-belief variables into a scale from 1 to 10) to explore the impact of school libraries on mental wellbeing. The findings show that children and young people who use the school library have, on average, higher mental wellbeing scores. Those who don’t use the school library are nearly twice as likely to have low mental wellbeing than they are to have high mental wellbeing.
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