Children (Reading)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13 March 2003.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour 2:30, 13 March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what action is being taken to help parents encourage young children to read. (S1O-6631)

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

In August last year, I launched the home reading initiative, which is aimed at encouraging parents and carers to read with their children.

We have produced "Read Together", a guidance booklet for parents and carers. We have encouraged people to sign up as reading champions and have established a small grants scheme to enable local groups and centres to develop and support home reading. Local groups can apply for grants under that scheme.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

The minister will be aware of the support and welcome that schools in my constituency, including Arthurlie Nursery in Barrhead, have given to the reading champions programme. Leaving aside the fact that I have signed up to the scheme, can he say how much progress has been made in signing up reading champions from a range of backgrounds to encourage early reading habits?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

From visits to Arthurlie Nursery and, last week, to Preston Street Primary School in Angus MacKay's constituency, where I launched the website that is associated with the project, I am aware how valuable parents, carers and young people think the initiative is. I do not want to name and shame MSPs who have not yet signed up as reading champions, as they can still do so. The latest recruits are J K Rowling and David Sneddon.

Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

I declare my registered interest as a fully signed-up reading champion who has just undertaken four local events associated with world book day last Thursday.

The minister mentioned the small grants scheme. How much funding has been set aside in total for the home reading initiative? What criteria has the minister established for achievements under the scheme?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I recognise that Fiona McLeod has taken an interest in this issue. I assure her that the home reading initiative has had an impact in a number of schools and nurseries that I have visited, where there has been increased demand for use of library facilities.

A total of £300,000 has been set aside for the small grants scheme. It is intended to provide localised funding for small groups that might not have access to other sources of funding to provide story sacks, for example, and other ways of involving parents in the process. I will send the member the full details.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Does the minister agree that if we are successfully to encourage young people to read, it is as important to invest in school library stock as it is to invest in school computers? Will she tell us what action the Scottish Executive is taking to provide adequate funding to ensure that school library stocks are kept up to scratch, particularly taking into consideration the high inflation rate in publishing?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I remind Keith Raffan of the record investment that the Executive is making in education through local authorities and the initiatives that supplement that investment. I have been very impressed as I have travelled round schools where people want to use modern technology but also recognise the value of books and reading materials. They want to upgrade the library facilities, equipment and resources to ensure that young people get the best opportunities. That will be a key feature of the work that we will undertake in developing a school estates strategy in order to ensure that young people have access to the best possible learning environment.