Let's use - not lose - our local librariesAP

Thinking of splashing out on an e-reader in an attempt to get your children to read more? Or maybe your canny youngsters (like mine) have been busily sowing the seeds of exactly why an iPad is such a great present idea because it'll make them vociferously devour novel after novel without so much as a push from me to 'go and read a book if you're bored.'

Well, put your money away, parents. Research has shown that you needn't spend your hard earned cash on pieces of expensive tech to get your young ones to enjoy reading.

Instead, it seems that the simple (and completely free) act of going to the library will encourage them a whole lot more.

The research - by The Reading Agency – found that 21.5% of children aged 4-11 said that 'going to the library' was likely to make them want to read compared with just 1.8% who said that 'getting a book on an iPad or kindle' would persuade them.

I was delighted (and not a little amazed) by the research. As parents, we're pushed into believing that technology is what inspires and excites our children these days.

But it seems that – for many children, at least – the good old-fashioned library can still stir the imagination.

I'm a huge fan of libraries, and have been since I was a small child. Every Saturday morning, my mum would take my sister and I to our local town library, an ancient Victorian edifice with its musty smell and shelves piled high with tomes that could transport me to a magical land at the back of a wardrobe as easily as to an adventure in the heat of a Cornish summer (with lashings of lemonade, of course).

I'd hold onto my three pink tickets, almost terrified of losing them, so precious were they to me. And, after much enjoyable deliberation amongst the shelving, I'd emerge from the library clutching three delicious books to my chest.

An exciting, inspirational supply of three books - every week - most of which I wouldn't have got my hands on had they not been 'free'.

The library – and its source of never-ending delights – fostered my love of reading (and writing). And I wanted my boys to feel the same way about books.

Which is why I make a point of taking them to our local library regularly and have done since they were tiny. (I recall a health visitor laughing at me when I told her I'd enrolled my eight-week-old son and that I read to him regularly.)

So I was disappointed to find that research from the Reading Agency also shows that less than two thirds of parents (61%) with primary school age children have registered them at their local library.

This is amidst the worrying backdrop of cuts, which are threatening hundreds of libraries across the country.

The Government has been monitoring local developments on public libraries over the last year, and estimates that around 60 static libraries closed in 2011-12. But library campaigner Ian Antsice from Public Libraries News says this figure doesn't take into account the 61 mobile libraries that have closed or the 45 that have been "withdrawn" and given to volunteers.

"These volunteers are, almost to the last one, doing it because the library would close otherwise," he says. "They believe the Council should run the service but they'd rather work unpaid than see it closed. The quality of these libraries is highly variable and their ongoing viability is fragile, especially as any seed-funding the council may have given to offload the buildings will dry up sooner or later."

Currently under some threat of closure or passing to volunteers are 234 more libraries and The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals warns that the level and extent of proposals could add up to the closure of up to 20% of library service points.

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Children in the UK are currently ranked 25th out of 65 developed countries in reading and the government are always harping on about improving children's reading abilities. So it seems absolutely crazy that any cuts to any library service should even be considered.

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We need to do everything we can to encourage our children to read these days – in an age where children's lives are becoming ever-more crowded with computer games, technology and TV. And libraries can help do that.

National Literacy Trust research has found that children who use the library are twice as likely to be above average readers. But we need to appreciate these places to keep them alive.

Which leads me to my plea. For goodness sake, parents, use your local library. Take your children there today. Choose a book with them, browse the shelves, and see your child inspired by the sheer choice on offer.

Our libraries might be living on borrowed time – but the more of us that visit and use these fantastic places regularly, the less likely it will be that the government and local authorities will single out libraries as a 'soft option' or legitimate target for their cuts.

Put it this way. It's up to us. We use it – or we lose it.

Or we end up paying for every single book our children get to read. Which means that the better-off get better at reading and the poorer get poorer. You get my drift.

Check out our books section for recommended books for every age child.