Children Need Libraries
By Maha Al-Hujailan
Children spend a considerable amount of their time doing nothing. Their families are usually busy with all sorts of responsibilities or obligations. Other than the time spent in school during the day, the child comes back home to find so much spare time without knowing how to spend it. Weekends and summer vacations tend to have the longest free time available for children. Unfortunately, our society has no programs that give the child the opportunities to utilize his free time.
There are no libraries, no comfortable parks with seating to suit the children or productive programs designed for them. All that’s out there is entertainment and amusement parks that focus on physical activities.
The truth is the country is in urgent need of projects that, apart from bringing financial dividends, benefit society and the children. Establishing libraries in different districts is an interesting idea. If only we knew the amount of knowledge and information a child obtains by enrolling in such libraries in different countries around the world.
Library services for children have never been as important for children and their families as they are today. Gaining access to the knowledge and the multicultural richness of the world, as well as lifelong learning and literacy skills has become the top priority of societies all over the world. A quality children’s library gives children a passion for lifelong learning and literacy skills, enabling them to participate and contribute to the community.
It should constantly respond to the increasing changes in society and meet the information, cultural and entertainment needs of all children. Every child should be familiar and comfortable with the local library and possess the skills to find their way around libraries in general.
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, which is the global voice of the library and information profession around the world, reported that by providing a wide range of materials and activities, public libraries provide an opportunity for children to experience the enjoyment of reading and the excitement of discovering knowledge and works of the imagination.
The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child stresses the right of every child to the development of his or her full potential, the right to free and open access to information, materials and programs, under equal conditions for all, irrespective of age, race, sex, religious, national and cultural background, language, social status or personal skills and abilities.
Establishing similar projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, private or public, would attract qualified young women with experience in different subjects and fields each library must have. Each library is viewed as a small school where students form small groups according to their age and take part in certain programs the parents choose for them in cooperation with the librarian.
The idea would also help ease the burden on parents if they have a large number of children to look after and especially if the parents have so much to deal with. Children and their parents should be taught how to make the best use of a library and how to develop skills in the use of print and electronic media. Public libraries have a special responsibility to support the process of learning to read, and to promote books and other media for children.
A library must organize special events for children, such as storytelling and activities related to the library’s services and resources. Children should be encouraged to use the library from an early age, as this will make them more likely to remain users in future years.
When I used to live abroad, I noticed how central libraries and the small and big ones distributed in different districts of the city with entertainment facilities create an environment conducive to learning, acquaintance and knowledge.
It’s really important that we ensure that our children are using their free time in ways that help them plan their future and nourish their skills. Growing up is a local community activity, not a global activity for children, but one affected by global developments.
Dr. Maha Al-Hujailan is a medical researcher at King Khalid University Hospital in Riyaadh.