Help children feel affinity for printed matter by creating attractive libraries

REUTERS/Issei Kato
Elementary school students walk toward their school in Tokyo, Japan, February 28, 2020.

Books transport us beyond time and space into a new world. It is important to cherish our encounters with each book that adds color to life and enriches the soul.

Today (Oct. 27) is Characters and Print Culture Day, and the start of the 14-day Book Week period. Hopefully this day and period will be a good opportunity to get in touch with the charm of books and develop an affinity with printed materials.

The publishing industry remains in dire straits, and the number of bookstores is declining. However, book hotels where overnight guests can read as many books as they like, and book cafes where young people can casually drop by, are highly popular.

Local governments need to cooperate with the private sector to strive to create an environment in which people can encounter excellent books.

Reading books is also essential to children’s growth. It is said that those who read a lot from their elementary school to high school days tend to be highly motivated to tackle things on their own initiative and have strong cognitive function when they grow up, among other benefits.

It is also known that the more books children read in their elementary school days, the more likely they are to enjoy school classes and have an interest in new things during junior high and high school.

It is vital for children to be attached to books from an early age, through such means as enjoying picture books with their parents.

Each board of education and school needs to strive to enrich school libraries, also called library rooms. Regarding the functions of school libraries, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry calls for helping children research and gather information by themselves in those facilities, in addition to reading books.

However, there are quite a few school libraries that are shunned by children, for reasons including the impression that they are “dark” or “only have old books” in stock, and that do not fully function as a place for learning and gathering information.

The municipally run Yamaguchi Elementary School in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, has as many as eight unique library rooms, including “Monoshiri (knowledge) Land,” a collection of books useful for classes, and “Monogatari no Heya” (Story room), a collection of novels and other categories of books. The elementary school has improved its reading environment since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake by using books donated from all over Japan.

Although there are fewer than 200 students, the school has nearly 10,000 books. It is filled with books, with volumes placed even in corridors and on shoe racks.

In some schools across the country, the lighting of school libraries has been changed to brighter LEDs and floors have been carpeted for comfortable reading.

School libraries are also expected to serve as a place for children to stay other than their home or classrooms. Efforts should be made in various regions to devise ways to create attractive school libraries.

It is important to utilize school librarians and other people to support children’s reading activities. Each board of education needs to improve its training sessions and develop human resources. They also need to provide children with many opportunities to read books, through such measures as facilitating cooperation with public libraries.