He had been in care from the age of two and a half until I adopted him four years later, and had only ever been read to occasionally before he came to live with me in 2005. He could read, just, but he did not recognise any lullabies, or recite nursery rhymes by heart. He moved in on the first Saturday morning of the school summer holidays, and was a signed up member of our library within a week. For the next six years, we visited Kensal Rise library pretty well every Saturday morning, where he had free rein, working his way through virtually the whole of our small library’s collection of books for toddlers, ‘chapter books’, children’s audio books, DVDs, books about animals, books for teens, and even books about drugs, when I thought these might help his understanding of how he had come to be in care. And that first summer, he also drew and coloured his way though many Brent library events for children. It was a magical time.
While these days I have problems tearing him away from the computer, he does still love a good book.
J does not sit his GCSEs until the summer after next. If he had stayed in care (or remained ‘looked after’), it is unlikely that he would have got GCSE English. The percentage of looked after children who achieved the basics, ie A* to C in GCSE English and Mathematics, stands at only 15% (in 2012).
Even in the population as a whole, the percentage of students awarded A* to C in GCSE English stands at only 63% (2013 figures).
Libraries are more important than ever.
I could not have afforded to buy the thousands of books we read together in those early years. Our library has since been closed and we miss it badly. We live in a London borough of enormous deprivation, where access to books and learning are one important key to social mobility. Kensal Rise library provided free computer and internet access, access to books, newspapers and magazines, and the only secular free community resource we have. Kensal Rise’s children are even poorer as a result of the library closing.
I have written separately today about this weekend’s brutal demolition of my community’s pop-up library by All Souls College Oxford and you can see that here.
I wrote this post for the Adoption Social’s Weekly Adoption Shout Out.