Thursday, 4 June 2015

School libraries – articles on their role and importance, useful links and a great poem

paired readingNeil Gaiman sees libraries and librarians as ‘frontline soldiers in the war against illiteracy and the lack of imagination.’ This photo of paired reading in the library at Carshalton High School for Girls shows the war against illiteracy in action. I am passionate about the importance of school libraries and school librarians. It’s one of my biggest fields of training. The benefits of reading enjoyment for student attainment are indisputable, and are underscored and endorsed in the new curriculum and by Ofsted. Literacy across the curriculum is rightly seen as crucial. These are just two areas in which libraries and librarians make a huge contribution, yet many schools see libraries as a ready target for cuts. This is horribly misguided, as the following articles powerfully demonstrate.

‘School Libraries: the best bang for your education buck’ is an forceful piece with lots of useful data. How shocking that Britain spends less money on books in secondary schools than any other developed country.

Malorie Blackman makes a heartfelt and compelling plea for school and public libraries in an interview about her two years as Children’s Laureate.

This lovely portrait of an anonymous school librarian by author Sita Brahmachari highlights the enormous value of the role.

I went to the launch of the new UKLA English, Language and Literacy Principles and Proposals last night. Great to see school libraries mentioned in the summary booklet. Reading 7-16, due out in September, will be an important read.

These sites are very useful on the role of the school library and librarian and ways to make the library effective:

Heart of the School
Primary School Library Guidelines
School Library Association

The School Library Association also produces excellent publications.

For anyone left with any doubts about the magic school librarians can weave, just read this wonderful poem by John Iona:

“But Sir, I don’t like reading”

Words I hear too often,
always accompanied by
an expression of defiance,
challenge or

I, however, like a challenge too
and so you talk to the student,
ask them questions and use
all the positive language
at your disposal,
even though it’s usually met with
blank-expression monosyllables,
or polite but bored
smiles and silence.

You pick out books that you think
might spark some interest,
telling them about each one you offer up,
hoping to see a light flicker on
somewhere inside.

Sometimes, they take one and
sit down with it.
You hope, mostly foolishly,
that they aren’t just pretending
to read it.

Then, every now and then
a student says
“Sir, I finished that book you gave me”
and they are holding it in their hands,
presenting it back to you
like a gift,
so that you can see it.
And you remember
the child, and the book
and ask with apprehension (still)
“Did you like it?”
“YES” they reply
smiling and open,
and your heart
literally leaps.

“What shall I read next?” they ask.
Your smile widens,
your heart almost sings as
you know what this means.

While the seeds you try to plant every day,
putting books into the hands of young people,
don’t always grow,
this seed has sprouted.
The student has read the book and
loved it and the child who,
a few days ago, told you
they didn’t like to read,
has remembered that
they do.

And now, they want more.

Through connecting and engaging
with the book,
they have connected
with you.
They will try the next book
you help them find and,
even if that doesn’t bloom
they will still come back for their next.
Through that one book will come trust,
in you, and a thirst
for more stories,
more engagement and
growth and
knowledge and

So when a child tells me that they
don’t like to read, it’s just
another chance to create
a new reader.