Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Book corners and class libraries

It was great to give a training day on class libraries and book corners this week. Preparing and delivering it made me more aware then ever of their huge benefits in terms of developing children’s literacy skills and reading enjoyment, and in supporting learning across the whole curriculum. They can play a big part in delivering the reading objectives that DfE and Ofsted – and staff and parents – are most concerned about. They fit well with many of the priorities in the new curriculum. How sad and perverse then that in many schools they are under-resourced, under-utilised and less than appealing. Too few schools have a coherent policy in relation to these important areas of the classroom. There is of course some excellent practice, but too often it depends on the whim of the individual teacher.

By no means everything is doom and gloom though. Loads of practical and innovative ideas were shared on the course for making class libraries welcoming, interesting and effective. Good provision is not all about money. One school had a competition for the best book corner. Teachers, TAs and pupils collaborated to create exciting spaces, with fabulous results. Parents and carers read with their children at the start or end of the day in the reading area in lots of schools, spreading important family literacy messages. I’m a big fan of having pupils’ work there, home-made books, and reading-related artwork. Excellent for increasing ownership, and very motivational.

Class libraries are the perfect place for children to read together. And where better to promote books, to read aloud (so vital for creating readers), and to foster an enthusiasm for reading. How vital it is to get rid of tatty and unattractive books, and make sure the contents match children’s interests as well as abilities. A small collection of appealing books, shelved face-out is far more effective than lots of uninteresting ones with just their spines showing. How crucial that children are taught how to browse and given time to do so. How essential that resources are not just arranged by reading level. How important to have not just books, but newspapers, comics and magazines, and other spurs to reading like story sacks and curiosity kits. And if we want children to read, we must make it comfortable to do so, with rugs, cushions, bean bags, cosy seating. What about a little reading den? Or a tent, with torches to read by?

There were inspirational plans for improvement by the end of the day.

Many thanks to Beddington Park Primary School for the lovely photo.