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Portsmouth Launches the Nation’s Largest Ever Library Card Scheme

Published: 18th July 2012 13:42

 Portsmouth is set to become the first city in the UK to automatically issue free library cards to all school children, aged between five and 16 years-old.

With the support of schools across the city, the council will be handing out over 23,000 library cards.

Results from 2011 National Literacy Trust review show that 3 in 10 children do not have books at home.

Dame Jacqueline Wilson said: "I practically lived in my local library when I was young and if I hadn't read all the magical books there, I wouldn't be a writer myself now.  I do hope you enjoy using your special library card. Happy reading!"

The scheme will be launched in schools from Monday 16 July, when all pupils will receive their brand new cards. Specifically designed for each age group by a local artist, they will replace any library cards previously held.

Schools Minister, Nick Gibb said: "I am delighted to support Portsmouth's drive to ensure all children and young people have the chance to foster a lifelong love of reading from an early age. Giving pupils a library card will encourage them to discover the joy of libraries and the wide range of books and advice they offer. This is an excellent initiative."

Evidence from the National Literacy Trust shows children who enjoy reading very much are five times more likely to be above average than below average in reading tests.

David Percival, libraries and engagement manager at the council, said: "We know that children who regularly use libraries are much more likely to be better at reading, so we're making sure every child has the chance to discover what we have to offer.

"We wouldn't have been able to do this without the support of all the schools in the city, issuing 23,000 cards is quite a challenge.

"I'm thrilled we've been able to make, what was once just an idea, into a reality."

"The children are eagerly awaiting their colourful library cards and we will be putting even more books on our shelves, so there's plenty to capture their imagination."

Currently there are 7,500 active library card users in the city aged between 5 -16 years old. This new scheme will see a further 15,500 young people with their own card ready for use in any of the city's nine libraries.

Miranda McKearney OBE, CEO of independent charity, The Reading Agency, said: "Every child deserves the chance to belong to their local library, children who use libraries are twice as likely to be above average readers. Congratulations to Portsmouth for this flagship initiative!"

Cllr Lee Hunt, cabinet member for culture, said: "Following on from the success of the state-of-the-art Southsea library, this new initiative hopes to build on the strong links found between reading and higher attainment, and capitalise on the city's love of reading.

"It's such a simple idea, every child to have their own library card, and I'm excited that we're a national first."

This unique scheme will coincide, on 14 July, with the launch in public libraries across the UK of 'Story Lab' - the 2012 Summer Reading Challenge - by the Reading Agency.

Portsmouth libraries have also scrapped late fees for children under 16, and are planning to transform two more libraries to give residents a brighter and more engaging future.

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