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Norfolk libraries to scrap late fees for children as part of post-pandemic reading push

26 February 2021

The Norfolk Libraries and Information service have put forward ambitious plans to improve children and young people's reading skills which have been diminished nationally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposals, to be considered at the Council’s cabinet on 8 March, include the removal of overdue charges for everyone under the age of 16, universal membership of the county’s e-library through Norfolk’s schools and the introduction of a new ‘1000 books before school’ reading challenge.

Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council said:

“Norfolk’s recovery from the pandemic will be defined by the action we take now. Reading is such an important part of a child’s development so we need to redouble our efforts to encourage reading at every age and every stage of their life.”

The plans have been put in place following a report from Ofsted which highlighted that 'reading stamina' has been lost for many children across the country as a result of the pandemic.

Ceri Sumner, Director of Community, Information and Learning at Norfolk County Council said:

“The library service has an important role to play in supporting children’s literacy and will be at the heart of each community as we come out of lockdown. The evidence shows that reading for pleasure not only impacts on reading stamina but has a key role to play in attainment and well-being. We want to remove as many barriers as possible to lifelong learning and help to grow everyone’s love of books so it is only right we begin with our county’s children.”

Alongside the removal of late fees, Norfolk’s children will also be offered free and easy to use membership to the county’s e-library. The library service will work with schools to give each child the opportunity to access a wide range of e-books, audio books, magazines and comics.

This follows a successful pilot in 5 schools in the county and a significant growth in the usage through 2020/21 which has seen children’s e-book use grow by 166%.

Later in 2021 the library service will also launch a ‘1,000 books before school’ reading challenge that will be aimed children aged 0-5.

The reading challenge will also mark key achievement milestones by awarding certificates as each family reaches at set number of books.

This will build on the book start scheme that already offers free books and information about the benefits of reading for each parent and the opportunity to sign up to the library.

Cabinet will discuss the report when it meets at 10am on Monday 8 March 2021. Read the reports and view the meeting live – or a recording afterwards.

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