Children are swiping books in attempt to turn pages

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock Photo: Shutterstock

Children are swiping on books in an attempt to turn pages, teachers have said, as they are confusing them with mobile phones and iPads.

There is a "disturbing" trend of children in reception and at nursery school picking up library books and trying to "swipe left", delegates at the UK's National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference in Brighton were told.

During a debate about libraries, Jennifer Bhambri-Lyte, a delegate from North Somerset, told of "happy childhood memories" of "running into a library, snuggling in a corner with a book, cuddling up to mum, turning the pages, gazing at the pictures".

She told the conference: "Kindles and iPads are wonderful things, but many of my friends talked about the smell of a book, finding tickets and receipts that someone had left as a bookmark, echoes of all the people that had been there before."

Ms Bhambri-Lyte went on: "I've taught both nursery and reception and I personally still find it disturbing to see a child pick up a book and try to swipe left." She said that books are a now luxury that many struggling families cannot afford, and that libraries can act as a "pair of armbands". 

A previous report by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) advised parents to turn to iPads and Kindles to get boys interested in reading, amid fears that large numbers of children are shunning books at a young age.

Their research found that children aged three to five often read for longer and had a better grasp of vocabulary when accessing touch-screen technology. Tablet computers had a particular impact on groups that are traditionally most resistant to reading – particularly boys and infants from poor families, the study added.

During the debate, NUT delegates raised concerns about a "shocking hammering" of library services in the last decade. Proposing the motion, Jonathan Reddiford, from North Somerset, argued that the number of public libraries has fallen by almost 900 in the last 10 years, with more expected to go.

"That is a shocking, shocking hammering of vital public services for many, many people," he said.

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At least 441 community libraries have closed in the past decade, with a further 149 under threat, the conference was told. The drop in professional librarians has led to a 93 per cent increase in volunteers working in libraries "resulting in an erosion of a longstanding knowledge and skill base which threatens the quality of the service they provide", the motion said. The NUT resolved to campaign for properly funded libraries which employ professional librarians.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT, said: "Libraries are an essential part of school and community life and as relevant now as they ever have been. Tragically, over the past decade the number of school libraries staffed by qualified librarians has declined rapidly.

"Reading for pleasure is a skill for life and is consistently shown to be one of the most powerful springboards for children's engagement with learning, thinking and creating.

 "The Government needs to put libraries, books and reading for pleasure centre-stage in its vision for children and young people."

A UK Department for Education spokesperson said: "We want all children to have the opportunity to read widely and earlier this year we announced a multi-million pound fund to make sure pupils can master the basics of reading."

The Telegraph, London