Friday 26-02-2016 - 11:00
This is a guest blog from Hassun El Zafar, Education Officer at Sheffield Hallam University Students’ Union.
My mother was a single parent and full time engineering student at a Russell Group University. I can still remember going to the university library with her, many times, sneaking away to play hide and seek with my older sister. I used to hide either in the science or history section so I could read books about on topics like astrophysics, genetics and stories of past civilisations whilst my sister searched for me...
The fundamentals of one's education can be received in school, but for me, as many others, it's never enough. My real education, the details, the real curiosity, came out of my visits to libraries, museums and outdoor adventures.
I know that for an impoverished child, whose family can't afford to buy books, access to a library is an open door to wonder and achievement, I'm really lucky that I had the opportunity to go through that door. But unfortunately, public libraries are now a the front line of budget cuts, and university libraries are becoming harder and harder for members of the public to access, making access to libraries harder than ever for kids like my younger self.
Here at Sheffield Hallam, I not only wanted to address the issue of parent carers having to stay at home during half term breaks or pay for child sitting costs but also wanted my institution to have a robust response to the closure of local libraries. I began working with my Library Services and we agreed to start the new 'Kids Corner' - a section of the library dedicated to children who attend the library with their student parents, it would include books suitable for all ages, toddlers to juniors and will also help them to search for a book of their interests.
It was a basic idea, but it was really positively received, students are now beginning to push this idea to become bigger and better over the course of this year, we've talked about working with our volunteering team to help provide student facilitated reading groups, art session and even game designing sessions for children who come into the library with their parents in the summer term.
Such a small and simple idea yet it has such a large and positive impact on the learning experience for student parents and young children entering our libraries. If we can do it at Sheffield Hallam, I don’t see why we can't do it anywhere else, let's help our student parents, let's get children to enter libraries more, let's fuel their imagination and open up the windows to a world which inspires them to explore, achieve and succeed.