Loughborough University
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The promotion of reading on children's mobile libraries in the United Kingdom

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posted on 2012-06-21, 12:03 authored by Marianne R. Bamkin
Children s library services offer children a means of developing their reading skills through the provision of books and other resources. Children s library services might be operated by public libraries, school library services or schools. A small proportion of public library authorities in the UK choose to operate specialist mobile libraries which cater for children alone. Such vehicles deliver a library service to children across a range of geographic and socioeconomic areas with the stated aims of promoting reading and a love of books, and accessing children who would not otherwise use library services. This study evaluated whether children s mobile libraries (CMLs) across the UK reach those aims and examined the methods by which the aims were targeted. It was decided that the most appropriate research method was to take an inductive perspective and qualitative approach forming a constructivist methodology. The evaluation was achieved by the use of grounded theory as a general method together with ethnographic techniques, in order to observe and understand the interactions of social actors, and identify the processes used to encourage reading. Interviews with key individuals were primarily held to gain access into the field and inform the scope of the research. Participant observations were conducted on 12 of the 26 children s libraries operating in the UK and further interviews with children s mobile library (CML) operators and CML service managers were also carried out. Extensive field notes were taken, then coded and analysed by the grounded theory method in order to understand children s and adults perceptions of the value of a CML to their lives. A model of the influences on children s reading was developed to understand the place of a CML in children s literacy. Existing published research was used initially to set the context of the study, and then as data throughout the project. Published and recognised theories about literacy development, learning, and well-being were consulted at relevant points during the research. Analytical reports of children s library services, practitioner handbooks and professional magazines were searched along with unpublished documents provided by library authorities. Issues that were raised from these sources included: the role of untrained library staff; supplying library services to the socially excluded; working with other agencies and the use of reading intervention schemes. The history, function, purpose and definition of CMLs were outlined. Five theories of event , reach , resource , process and well-being emerged from the data and examples of best practice were identified. The daily operation of a CML was modelled using those five theories to create a transferable standard against which to judge similar children s provision. It was found that children s mobile libraries promote reading because of their transient nature; through the relationships of children with the staff who work on the vehicles; by the nature of the learning environment and specialist stock of the children s mobile library, and because they access children who would otherwise not use any other library service.



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© Marianne Ruth Bamkin

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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