I’m sad to hear that my local village library is threatened by closure. The council needs to make huge spending cuts across the board next year and as a ‘third tier’ library, in an area that is not marked as one of significant deprivation, Lyndhurst is on a list of 10 possible closures.
I can still recall the excitement I felt as a child, being taken to my local library to choose some books that I was allowed to take home with me. It’s a feeling that’s endured and thinking about books, hearing of good ones recommended to me and obtaining the next great read all provoke warm and positive feelings. It’s true I no longer use the library that much – but I do order books to collect from time to time. When my children were younger though, we used it much more regularly. I think children having access to books is so valuable on so many levels, and felt shocked to find there were some young families who had never been taken to a library.
We know that the more widely children read, the greater their achievement across the board; vocabulary range is increased which has an impact on academic and written performance, but also boosts emotional literacy; children’s laureate Cressida Cowell states: ‘We know that reading anything for the joy of it gives huge mental health benefits’. Not only are books a gateway into a world we can escape to for moments of calm retreat and respite, but learning about others’ internal worlds, whether fictional or real, allows us to reflect more deeply and widely on our own experiences, with the capacity to challenge our thinking, and to grow.
This is a concept known as ‘mentalisation’ – a term coined by the psychotherapist Peter Fonagy, which is the capacity to think both about our own internal state, in an objective way, and also others’ internal states, which is about empathy. These two qualities are key to psychological well-being but not everyone is able to manage this successfully. Isn’t it good to hear that encouraging our children to read can help them to support their learning and develop resilience too?
I’ve responded to the council’s consultation document urging that we try to keep our library open – once it’s gone, it’s gone! But I feel that libraries could work harder for the community, both with local schools to encourage greater use, and for other purposes – there are many opportunities to expand use; courses, classes and workshops from computer training to crafting – to groups for readers, writers, well-being or therapy.
If you would like to send your comments to Hampshire County Council in support of saving Lyndhurst library, write an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org by March 18th.
To listen to a BBC podcast explaining more on Peter Fonagy’s mentalisation, go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dpj2