Free children's book service has growing waiting list

MORE than 600 children are on the waiting list for a free book service aimed at increasing literacy in Ballarat, with a lack of funding the main culprit for the delay.

It comes as more than 1000 items were considered overdue at City of Ballarat libraries in January, of which a large number were children’s books.

Run by United Way, the Ballarat Imagination Library provides a free book each month to those who sign up from birth until age five.

Co-ordinator Jan McIver said there were currently 310 children receiving the books, with a further 622 still waiting for sponsors. It costs $72 a year for each child to get a book.

She said a lack of funding was her “single biggest stress”, as the service is reliant on the local community for donations to provide the books.

Improving literacy is considered one of the best ways of avoiding socioeconomic disadvantage. 

However, Ms McIver said the Ballarat Imagination Library was aimed at increasing reading rates regardless of household income. 

She said many children in Ballarat were not being read to at night by their parents. 

“It’s so exciting. I’m getting fabulous feedback from parents whose children are memorising the books,” Ms McIver said.

“There’s a little bit of excitement about a book arriving in the letterbox with their name on it. It’s quite unique, it’s special.”

The demand for children’s books is shown in the number currently overdue at the Ballarat, Sebastopol and Wendouree libraries, as well as its mobile service.

According to documents released under Freedom of Information laws, there were 1091 items overdue at City of Ballarat libraries in January totalling $3900 in fines.

City of Ballarat people and communities general manager Neville Ivey said the higher number of children’s books currently overdue could be put down to their length.

“People tend to borrow more children’s books than other books because of their shorter content. That is, you get through them quicker than a full-length novel,” he said.