Fiona Hyslop: Looking Beyond Book Week Scotland

Fiona Hyslop reading with a young child
Category: Reading

Is there a greater pleasure than losing yourself in the magic of a book? As the Culture Secretary for Scotland, I strongly believe in the role of culture in shaping society and connecting us and our communities. Creative expression in literature and the arts help us to make sense of the world around us, providing a welcome distraction in troubled times.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Scottish Government is supporting Book Week Scotland 2017, one of the flagship events of Scotland’s culture sector dedicated to celebrating books, reading and Scotland’s rich literary history and established as a result of a Scottish Government commitment to literature.

With hundreds of free events taking place all across the country, Book Week Scotland is a unique opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together in libraries, schools, communities and workplaces to share books and enjoy the pleasure of reading. During this edition, some of the best Scottish authors, poets, playwrights, storytellers and illustrators will be joining the public in an open discussion around this year’s main theme, ‘nourish’.

I am proud to see how Book Week Scotland continues to go from strength to strength, reaching out to more people every year and engaging with current and aspiring readers from all walks of life. From world-renowned authors and publishers to schools, communities and individuals, Book Week Scotland and Scottish Book Trust are working hard to make reading more accessible and ensure everyone in Scotland has an opportunity to enjoy books.

Book Week Scotland is a unique opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to share books and enjoy the pleasure of reading

The Scottish Government supports this work and is constantly seeking new ways to further encourage a nationwide love of books and reading. I was very pleased to personally drive forward the development of the first national strategy for Scotland’s public libraries and we have launched our 2017/18 Public Library Improvement Fund, transforming the outlook of our public libraries, tackling inequalities and boosting the economy through a range of pioneering projects.

Indeed, just last week I was in Aberdeen to launch the six-month pilot of the ‘One Card’ library pass, which enables library users to access 120 libraries, 1.6 million books and more than 600 PCs and free Wi-Fi hotspots across five local authorities. If successful, the pilot will be rolled out to the whole of Scotland, removing barriers between library services countrywide.

It’s not just our public libraries which are so important – our school libraries play a vital role in supporting literacy and improving attainment, too. The recent launch of our £1 million School Library Improvement Fund in September 2017 has already contributed to the enhancement of the service school libraries provide to pupils across the country.

Although initiatives such as Book Week Scotland have helped more people explore the benefits of reading, there is no room for complacency. As we prepare ourselves to celebrate young people during 2018 - Year of Young People, it is particularly important that we continue to seek new ways to encourage our young people to develop an even greater love of books. In recent years, the Scottish Government has supported various initiatives – from Bookbug to Read, Write, Count. Among the most successful, the First Minister’s Reading Challenge deserves a special mention. The Challenge is encouraging our young people to read for pleasure and is contributing to making reading one of the cornerstones of our Curriculum for Excellence and Literacy Action Plan. After the success of the initial scheme, the Challenge has been extended to reach out to pupils in Primary 1 to 3.

As a keen reader myself, I believe books and culture play a role in achieving our ambitions as a nation, contributing to our wider economy, tourism and education sector. Mine, too, is a story of lifelong love of books: I have great memories of books that have accompanied me through the years – from my childhood favourite The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to a more recent read, The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis.

I encourage everyone in Scotland, especially this week, to commit to finding some time to immerse themselves in their favourite book.

Check out our events search to discover some of the great events happening during Book Week Scotland.

Learn more about the importance of libraries and the vital services they offer in our blogs.

Image credit: Rob McDougall

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