“Work hard at school and read as much and as often as you can.”

I can still hear my father say those words years after his passing. He was a habitual reader himself and, having had his own education disrupted by World War 2, knew the value of reading to a growing young mind.

To that end, a day does not end without my nose being firmly placed in a book. Despite the temptations of 21st Century living which includes hundreds of TV channels, streaming services, video games and the whole of the internet at our fingertips, thanks to following my old dad’s advice I end the day with an old-fashioned book in my hands. 

As a teacher I tried to imbue the young people in my classes with the same ethos and appreciation of the value of books and reading, often their parents or carers would seek advice as to how to get their children more interested in reading.

My first bit of advice would be not to put kids, who may be unfamiliar with reading for pleasure, off by planting heavy volumes on their laps.

The Harry Potter books, for example, are a marvel of modern fiction for children and grown-ups alike but they can be quite intimidating for those who see reading as a challenge or a chore.

My advice was always to start on the “nursery slopes” of personal reading; comics, sports pages of newspapers, TV guides or tea break magazines.

Better to encourage reading by hooking to it to a subject that the young person is interested in, rather than invest in the heavy tomes of Tolkien following a DVD of “The Hobbit”. 

I bring this to the attention of Glasgow Times readers as recently the city council announced, in a further round of ill-thought-through cuts, that the Schools Library Outreach service (SLO) was to be ended.

This wonderful and popular service allowed all of Glasgow’s schools access to the wealth of the city’s bank of library books to assist learning and teaching across every subject imaginable.

As part of the intentions of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), pupils could choose, for themselves, topics which they could work on as class projects, instead of having one of them imposed on them by their teacher. 

The idea being that the more choice pupils have over the given focus and context for learning, the more likely that learning is to be effective and lasting.

That could be about Scottish or British history, oceans, recycling and green issues or vital STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths).

Why is that important?

It encourages personal choice in reading and to make that reading a pleasurable and purposeful experience rather than something which is foisted on pupils and seen, by many, as a chore. How many times have we as adults had a book forced on us?  Do we not prefer to personalise our reading choices and we enjoy it more as a consequence?

However, the SLO service provides more than that, by allowing hard-pressed schools to access some of the most popular and current novels for children, without it costing their budgets dearly.

Giving children access to the works of JK Rowling, Roald Dahl or David Walliams free and in their classrooms, making it accessible and free, can start a lifelong love of reading.

Additionally, the same service also helped, hugely, with the support of many of our children whose first language is not English and alleviating the workload for already overworked school staff.

You would imagine that some sort of impact assessment would have been carried out prior to this decades-old service being removed, but alas no… Our SNP city council which talks big on increasing attainment in schools and supporting poorer families saw this as an easy cut. They know its cost but not its value.

It will be the poorest and most challenged families who will suffer the most as it is those children who, for whatever reason, do not access the city library service ­either regularly or at all.

This outreach service is a ­vital link in the reading journey between home/school and the ­library service.

If we are really serious about increasing attainment across the board, particularly among children from our most deprived areas, then this proposal is folly and shows that the SNP/Greens who run our education system and who have presided over historically low attainment figures, are all talk.

Only through a commitment to support our children’s reading journey across council services, can we truly hope to improve life chances for some of our most challenged families.

My old dad never said a truer word…